God is love. The rest, I’m discovering, is largely politics. God is love, says the Left: tolerant, egalitarian, speaking truth to power, embracing the poor. God is love, says the Right: father, friend, teacher, judge. God is love, but that statement is so often interpreted through our social-political stuff. Love itself is simpler and deeper.
For instance, God is love and God is loving, but love isn’t the only emotion Love reveals. In the Bible, God’s love propels him both to create and destroy. It is God’s love that can’t stand injustice, that lashes out at evildoers through the mouths of psalmists and prophets. Far from being economically unconcerned, it is God’s love that won’t tolerate economic oppression, that sends Jesus into a marketplace with a cat o’nine tails (John 2:13-17).
Similarly, when Love speaks, he doesn’t say only “I love you.” He asks “why?” and “which?” He says “stay” and “go,” and “You shall have no other gods before me.” God heals, curses and confounds, and yet he is consistently, faithfully love. It’s the love of God in Jesus Christ that tells fishermen where to find fish and a prostitute where to find forgiveness.
If God is love, if love is the essence of who God is, then love is at times legitimately angry, passionate, fierce and frightening. It goes to work, hangs out with friends, bleeds, dies, stands up for truth. Love pursues evil with a means to cleanse it. Love is concerned with moral law but also with civic structures. God’s love eats with tax collectors and sinners, strengthens families and marriages, but also warns the children not to play with fire. We need a love like that.
So yes, God is love, God is loving and he loves us. He tells us this much but doesn’t hold back from saying more. Love says it all.