Everyone has an attribute or two that defines them. An innate quality that is the keystone for their entire life. For human beings, this could be something wonderful or awful, pleasing or repulsive, but it is the one attribute that affects and governs all of the others. For God that one keystone attribute is love.
We often think of love as a fleeting mercurial whimsical feeling. Perhaps that’s because we fail to recognize the different kinds of love. For instance, while English has one word for love New Testament era Greek had four. There was “eros”, romantic and sensual love. “Storge” is instinctual love between parent and child. “Phileo” is brotherly love between people. And finally, “agape” love is unconditional love.
The Bible strongly connects God with agape. The Apostle John wrote, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7–8, NLT) And, “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16, NASB95) All of those “love” words are a form of agape.
We must make a large distinction between our love and God’s love. No matter which type of love we are expressing it is always in the form of “I love…” Whether it is I love cherry pie or I love you. Basically, we are saying we possess a love for something or someone. God, on the other hand, does not possess love; He is love. It is an inseparable part of His being. That simple revealed fact is key to understanding what we have talked about so far and what is yet to come. God is love – all of love.
In God’s other attributes of all-powerfulness, all-knowingness, and otherness we noted observationally a self-limiting factor. That factor is love. God’s love is unfailing and patient. But His love doesn’t remove or change those other attributes. There are times, many of which we don’t understand, when holiness must rule through justice. Such as when Uzza died after he sought to support the Ark of the Covenant when the oxen stumbled nearly overturning the cart. (1 Chronicles 13:9-10) It seems unjust and unfair. Where was God’s love for Uzza?
In this instance, God’s love is Exodus 25:14-15 which specified and provided for the Ark to be carried on poles by men, not hauled in a wagon. If David had followed the course set hundreds of years earlier then Uzza wouldn’t have died. And that is where we encounter a large conflict between God’s love and our view of love. In our minds love is often only love if it meets our desires and standards. We may think that since God is love He should be ok if I want to do something contrary to His prior instruction. He should love me no matter what.
Here’s the kicker. He does love us no matter what. The problem is that by choosing to go our own way we are loving ourselves and not loving God. When that happens consequences will follow. Not because God failed to love us, but because we chose self-love over loving God. But, as we’ll soon see, God’s love even provided for our failure to love Him.
God is love. Everything, even those things we don’t understand, contains an aspect of His love. We may not see it or understand it but it is always there. God’s love is not fleeting, mercurial, whimsical, or earned. God’s love is perfect, unfailing, and freely given. In Paul’s letter to the Romans he wrote, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38–39, NASB95) Not only is God love, but God loves you.