Sometimes I feel like I have to apologize to anyone burdened by the belief that God’s essence is anything other than Love. Even though I consciously know I’m not responsible for centuries of teachings to the contrary, when I see so many people burdened by the lie that God is just looking for ways to punish us, I feel like I should be doing more to challenge that assumption. As someone who grew up with the mixed message that God both loved me absolutely and saw me as irredeemably lacking, I can see how it is difficult for some people to experience God as anything but polarizing. But, the more I seek to live into the two great commandments, the more I realize that who God is and what people–very often the ministers we trust to help us bridge that illusory chasm–say about God are not always the same thing.
As 1 John 4:7-8 says:
7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.
In my experience taking this to heart changes our lives in fundamental ways and opens us to receive the gift for which we were created–complete and utter joy.
Author, Theologian, and Minister Lewis Smedes has been quoted as saying “You and I were created for joy, and if we miss it we miss the reason for our existence. If our joy is honest joy, it must somehow be congruous with human tragedy. This is the test of joy’s integrity. It is compatible with pain. Only the heart that hurts has a right to joy.”
In the message below, you are invited to consider the notion that if God is Love, then wouldn’t it be equally true that Love is God? I hope you find some joy in that thought. When this thought occurred to me after talking with a friend who shared his concern that God might reject him, I began saying it to myself for days. When I did, I could feel a difference in how I felt the word “Love” whenever I said it, heard it, or read it. I encourage you to try this as well and let me know if you notice any changes.
Another amazing exercise is saying “God” wherever you see the word “Love” in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and other passages. Try it and feel the difference in what we’ve been told about God and what it feels like to truly feel God as Love and Love as God. And if you feel afraid to do this, remember what it says in 1 John 4:18.
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.
Love is God.