Sunday, February 10, 2013
God is love.
If that's true, then Paul's famous hymn of love in first Corinthians 13 can be read like this:
God is patient, God is kind.
God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud.
God does not dishonor others, God is not self-seeking,
God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs.
God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
God always protects,
God never fails.
Wow. God does not envy? God does not boast? That might make us reconsider some of the songs we sing to him on Sunday morning then. God does not boast.
God keeps no record of wrongs? Do we dare to just sit and let that be, without immediately protesting "yes, but..." Can we simply allow God to love all of who we are, no matter how broken, ugly and helpless we may feel? God keeps no record of wrongs. Selah.
Why is it so hard for us to accept that this what God is like? Is it that we do not really believe with Paul that "love never fails"? Do we think that we should try love... until it fails and then pick up our swords?
When Paul talks about us trusting, hoping, and persevering, what that means is that we are trusting in the way of love, hoping for the victory of love, persevering in the means of love, and we can have that hope, perseverance, and trust because love never fails.
That does not mean we sit passively and accept abuse. Because, as Paul says here, love always protects. But it protects through the means of love, by "overcoming evil with good, instead of being overcome by evil" (Romans 12:21).
Right after John declares that God is love, he tells us that God demonstrates that love for us in Jesus. That's our model, seen in God revealed in Christ. That's why we are supposed to have Jesus-shaped lives too. "Dear friends" John writes, "since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." (1 Jn 4:9-12). No one has ever seen God, but we know too that God looks like Jesus.When we love, we make the invisible God visible.
So don't listen to those toxic voices that say love is not enough, that promote fear. As John says "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." Fear and punishment here are set up as polar opposites of God's very nature. It's so important that we get that deep down in our bones. There is no fear in love. God is love. God drives out fear. The closer you are to God, the further you will be from fear and punishment. To the extent that we embrace fear and punishment, we push God out.
"If we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us" John says. God's love is made complete in us when we do not envy, because God does not envy. God's love is made complete in us when we keep no record of wrongs, because God keeps no record of wrongs. When we truly understand what love looks like, then we understand what God looks like. God is love.