A Leadership cartoon by Lee D. Johnson.|Copyright © 2010 Christianity Today International. |Used by permission.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Unlike the man in the cartoon above, we don’t view love as an esoteric theological concept. For us, love is real and living, for as the Bible tells us, God is love (1 John 4:16).
How sad then that some preachers and teachers declare that God does not love everyone. They say that God created some people for the purpose of damning them for eternity. I find it astonishing that anyone could actually believe, let alone teach such a distorted and ugly picture of God. Such a view cannot be true for multiple reasons:
- It portrays God as working within a mechanistic system that in effect robs God of any freedom to love.
- It renders Scripture incoherent since all humanity is called to repent, yet some cannot since God (supposedly) has already assigned some to damnation.
- It presents God as capricious, arbitrarily choosing some and rejecting others of his own creation who bear his own image.
- It divides God’s will between two opposite ends, since God purposes and wills to bring about both life and death for his good creation.
- It makes God’s character incoherent and untrustworthy since God is equally predisposed to bless and damn his good creation.
- But worst of all it creates a split in God’s very being so that the Son is the merciful Savior and Reconciler of the world while the Father is only concerned for a righteousness that is entirely satisfied with rewarding the good and punishing the evil. The Son does not, then, show us the Father, but is actually at odds with his mind, character, purpose and will.
Whichever way you look at it, to believe God predestined some people for condemnation is inconsistent with a God who says love is the very essence of his being.
Since God is a relational being living in perfect oneness as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, he did not have to create us – or anything. He was not lonely or lacking anything. He created all that exists because he wanted to share his love, his light and life. Note what the apostle John says:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:1-5).
So it is tragic when God is presented as a harsh, cosmic sheriff; or when Jesus is portrayed as the good cop, playing us against his bad cop Father. This dualistic viewpoint has Jesus running interference for us behind the back of His Father. It ignores the fact that God the Father sent Jesus to reveal God to us. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts us that Jesus is the true Son of the Father and that God’s triune nature is one of pure, perfect, and to our limited minds, incomprehensible love.
Love is the nature of God’s being – that is, love is not something God has; it is what he is.
It is one of my passions for people to know of this life that we have in Christ. It is a joy to point out that the gospel is a message of good news from beginning to end.
Scripture describes the gospel in numerous ways. Here is how the word is most often used:
- good news of Jesus Christ — 15 times
- good news of God – 9 times
- good news of the kingdom – 7 times
- my gospel, our gospel – 6 times
- the gospel of peace – 2 times
- good news of God’s grace – 1 time
- good news of the glory of Christ – 1 time
- gospel of your salvation – 1 time
From infinity, God has reached down, touched the earth, and redeemed it with the blood of his only Son. Whether one believes in him or not, the life that we all have exists only in him. The more we acknowledge and live in that knowledge, the quality of our life is enhanced. It makes no difference whether we are wealthy or poor, healthy or ill. Any joy we experience is the echo of his life, love and light in our lives.
Our ultimate delight, through the Holy Spirit, is to come to know the divine love of Christ. The love that God has given his sons and daughters in Christ is not a philosophical contemplation, a scientific theory, or a theological treatise, but a living and binding love to be shared with one another and with our Lord.
Blessings from my family to yours,
P.S. Last week we reported on GCI pastor Rick Shallenberger’s recent visit to Africa (see https://update.gci.org/2012/02/gci-zambia-report/). This week we continue that report with an update about his visit to Malawi (see https://update.gci.org/?p=8487). I’m grateful to Rick and others who assist me in keeping in contact with our churches in Africa. In some cases (as with Rick), these trips are financed by their home congregations. Thanks to all for their generosity in helping us spread the love of God around the globe.