At our meeting on Sunday night, we turned our thoughts to the idea that God loves and is love. It can be a difficult proposition for us to wrap our heads around, which is probably why a Google search brings up a whole heap of Bible verses but very little else.
It’s as if we are familiar with the concept but don’t spend much time exploring or reflecting on it, perhaps because we don’t quite believe it could be true. So whether you were part of the discussion on Sunday or not, I hope this blog will be a chance to explore and reflect on the astounding and wonderful and brilliant fact that God loves and is love.
A few quick thoughts to begin with…
If God loves then that tells us that his love is active, that for him love is not a matter of empty words or delicate feelings or abstract concepts but meaningful action, and we have the cross as proof of that
If God is love then it must mean that love is not just something God does but something that is the very essence of his being. It must mean that everything he is and does is suffused with love so that his love doesn’t need to be explained or justified. It must mean that he loves because he loves because he loves.
If God is love then that also tells us that God is the source of love, so that when we experience love we are somehow connected with him, as we are caught up in his very nature and participate in his vision for the world.
And if God is love then it must mean that love can teach us something about God. It must mean that as we experience love in our human relationships, we also glimpse God in his divine truth. It must mean that we see the face of God in the faces of the ones who love us.
Building on that final thought, we spent some time on Sunday trying to answer the question ‘what is love?’ and then reflecting on what that might say in answer to the question ‘who is God?’
These are the words we came up to describe love. I want to let them speak for themselves, so all I will say is that I think they paint a beautiful portrait of the God I have begun to know.
reluctant to discipline
sometimes seemingly cruel
the greatest thing
Perhaps you might like to spend some time dwelling on these words as descriptions of God, testing them against scripture and your own experience, asking that God reveal more of himself to you as you contemplate on his character as revealed in love.
I said at the start of this blog that we can often struggle to believe that God is love, and we asked ourselves on Sunday night why that might be. There was a feeling that it can be difficult to accept that God is love when we do not feel loved, or when we see and experience hardship that we believe a loving God should not allow, or when we read of his wrath in the Old Testament and find it impossible to reconcile the extremes, or when we feel that we do not deserve to be loved by him.
There aren’t easy answers to any of the questions these dilemmas raise, but I did share on Sunday night that Doctor Who had given me some food for thought. Bear with me here, because I don’t think that’s as mad as it sounds. After all, God has a habit of showing up in unexpected places.
A while ago I came across an article which says this: Doctor Who teaches me I just don’t know everything. Horrible events can occur for reasons explained in lost episodes or laws of physics too dense for my blogger’s mind and that doesn’t mean we are lost or unloved. There is the possibility of a god who roots for us, loves us, and grieves for us just like the Doctor. And a god who has saved us so many times and in so many ways we’ve never known.
The Doctor often gets frustrated with the humans he comes across, but deep down he really loves them, and more than anything else he wants to save them. He can’t always do that, and sometimes the people who travel with him don’t understand why not, but in the end they trust him because they trust his love. There’s something about story which captures the heart, especially when it has a ring of truth to it, and for me this speaks of the fact that we too can be assured that God loves us through all circumstances, that he walks with us to the end of the episode whatever that may look like.
And in the last series, there was a scene in which the Doctor tells his companion Clara that he will do all that he can to save her boyfriend, despite the fact that she has just betrayed him. She can’t believe that he is still willing to help her after what she has done, but then he says this: “Did you think I cared for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?”
I am not ashamed to admit that I cried watching that episode, because in that line I heard the voice of God. I have always been told that God loves us in spite of everything, but watching that scene play out really brought home what that looks like. God knows we’re not worthy. He knows we mess up. But still he loves us because he loves us because he loves us.
This is only a tiny fraction of all that can be said about the God who is love, but I hope it will give you something to explore and reflect on. And I pray that as you do you will experience something of the love of God, who roots for you and grieves for you and has saved you so many times in and in so many ways that you have never known.