Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Taking Care When Proclaiming "God is Love"

How many people heard a sermon this past Sunday based on the reading from 1 John 4:7-21 ?


Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgement, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
I don't know about you, but I sure have heard a whole lot about "God is love" in past sermons. I sometimes was left wondering if the preacher was talking about "Love" with a capital "L" or not.  God as love is actually a bit harder to get your mind around than it would seem. Our typical frame of reference when thinking about this subject is based on our peculiar human experience, but there is another frame of reference, and that is found when we consult the witness of Scripture as to "the why" we come to the conclusion that God is Love. John Charles Ryle (10 May 1816 - 10 June 1900) was the first Anglican bishop of Liverpool, and he gave a warning to those who might preach on this matter,   

 H/t Erik.
"Let us proclaim to all the world that God is love. But let us carefully remember that we know little or nothing of God's love which can give us comfort, excepting in Jesus Christ. It is not written that God so loved the world that He will take all the world to heaven—but that He so loved it, that He has given His only begotten Son. He who ventures on God's love without reference to Christ—is building on a foundation of sand!" ~ J.C. Ryle Tract: Do You Believe?

6 comments:

  1. Right. That's one reason I spent the sermon time yesterday answering the question, "In Christ, I am ...", referencing the Gospel, the epistle, and many other places in the NT. At the same time I gave opportunity to the faithful assembled to answer the question out loud - something of an interactive sermon.
    We must be prepared as Christians to answer the questions of love that try to prove God's dismissal of us. So we hear, "You sinned again. Therefore God does not love you anymore." That kind of love is the world's love, which is unfaithful and eventually selfish. And God's answer and promise - which we must know, accept and be prepared to proclaim - is spoken in love wrapped in Christ, "If you will confess your sins, I, who am faithful and just, will forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrightesousness."

    The mainlines are, in general, confused on this major point, and it is reflected in preaching and teaching, is it not?

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    1. Rob+,

      I once heard a sermon that tried to explain the problem as a problem with the English language and its limited (compared to Greek) terms for love. I didn't buy it as a linguistic problem.

      We pewsitters can greatly simplify our confusion by grounding the question in Christ as a demonstration of God's inestimable love for us.

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  2. Not just pewsitters, UP.

    It is only a linguistic issue if the word love is divorced from the letter(s) wherein the author makes use of it.
    It is a quite interesting exercise, otherwise, but it should lead to underscoring what the author fleshes out anyway in the text! ( CSLewis has the quintessential discussion on "loves" in the greek, and that is exactly what he does.)

    I wonder if that is because the author, John -- a pastor and apostle -- already knew that people (all, no matter what order) need to hear it, hear it again, hear it explained, illustrate what they heard, illustrate what they heard explained, and then hear it again!
    What you said is what John says when he's using those words, love. God bless him; thank the Holy Spirit.

    Can you imagine the bible only containing one word? But even then, agape means nothing without Jesus Christ.

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  3. The reason there are problems in many denominations is that "God is Love" becomes "God is 'super nice.'" This means that all that fussy judgment stuff and all the rules get's tossed out every time we humans want to go our own way. In other words, viewed out of context of the entire scripture, it becomes the basis for a perverted form of gospel.

    Cheers.

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  4. o "God is Love"

    o Jesus warned about Hell more than anyone else in the New Testament.

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    1. T.U.D.

      What better example of God's love for us that He warns us about the dangers of Hell.

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