During my time in seminary, I attended a class which focused on the reality and characteristics of God. One morning we were beginning our discussion when a seminary student stood up in the middle of class and announced, “I don’t believe in God!” The classroom fell dead silent as everyone waited to see how the professor would respond. Clearly unshaken and in a calm voice, the professor replied, “Okay, please describe this God that you don’t believe in.” The student began this long tirade, filled with anger and emotion, describing a god who is vengeful and unloving; a god who is distant and unjust. After the student was finished, the professor confessed, “Well, I don’t believe in that god either. My God is Love.”
Too often we think of God as the illusive one, far away and disconnected from our daily lives. Maybe we believe in the reality of God, but we have difficulty bringing that reality into our personal lives each day. We read in the scriptures of a God who loves us, but we also know that there have been people around us who also once claimed to love us, and then treated us unkindly. The power of love can become diluted and disarmed in a world that strives to love but then falls dreadfully short of the mark.
It is important to remember that love is not just an attribute of God or one of his great abilities. Love is not just an emotion that God occasionally feels toward one of us based upon our level of obedience. Love exists because of God. Love is because God is. God doesn’t fall in love with you. The love existed first, then came you. 1 John 4 says it all so clearly. “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
Do you love someone? Of course you do. We all have family and friends we love. What else do you love? Maybe you love pizza or a good book or chocolate? The term love is used in many different contexts. Certainly, my love for chocolate is not the same as my love for my children. (Although, some days it may run a close second).
The various ways we use the term love can make it difficult for us to understand the very specific love that is God. God is love without barriers or qualifications. God is love that is unconditional and independent of how we look or act or respond. Even if we choose not to love God, it will not change the fact that God is love.
It is difficult for us to comprehend that depth of love because we humans always qualify our love. You may love pizza, but not with anchovies. You may love a good book, but not science fiction. You may love other people, but not ones that look like that or act this way or live the other way.
February is the month when we typically celebrate our love. Maybe this February we should try something new. Let’s commit ourselves this February to truly love one another. Not with qualifications or conditions. Not just those who are closest to us. They are easy to love. But to love even that stranger, with the unconditional love that is God. Can you imagine the changes that would occur in a church or a community that took that short verse in 1 John to heart? Dear friends, let’s love one another. For God is Love.
Click Here for “God So Loved the World”
by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir: