This week, I saw “God is love” posted on a church’s reader board. Enough said, right? Not quite. Let’s just say this denomination (at least in America) has christened things that the Bible says are sin. When they say “God is love,” it means something closer to, “God is cuddly, and permissive.” Given that they actively encourage sin (which destroys relationship with God) I have considered whether we are, in fact, members of the same faith. I doubt we are.
While on the fringes of Christian belief, they’re not alone in viewing God as a teddy bear yes-man who props up our graven self-image by accepting us as we are with no catalyst for change.
Let me be clear: Jesus absolutely meets us where we’re at and accepts us there. Then He says if we want to come after Him, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow (Luke 9:23). Whatever I am when I come to Jesus has to end. Not all at once. But I must embrace the fact I died when He died on the cross and start following in His footsteps.
We need to face something unpleasant: the way we define and conceive of love is completely self-serving. The nice-guy God we’ve stylized is a blasphemous fake. This is why I rarely quote 1 John 4:16 (“God is love”) without also quoting 1 John 3:16–“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.” What makes us think we could stand tall before such self-sacrificing purity?
When Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and other prophets saw the Lord, they cried that they were undone; they fell down as though struck dead. Even John, who leaned against Jesus’s chest when He was on earth, fell at Jesus’s feet like a dead man when he saw Jesus in the Spirit (Rev. 1:17).
Now, after overwhelming them, Jesus tells these same prophets not to be afraid; He often lays a hand on them and infuses them with spiritual strength so they can continue interacting with Him. But this just reinforces what I’m saying: the white-light purity of Jesus’s love deepens the shadow of our failure and need.
It doesn’t matter how deep and dark our shadow is. But we must leave it. Christianity is not about God shacking up with us in our darkness. We must follow Him into the light:
“This, then, is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God” (John 3:19-21).