The Scottish theologian P. T. Forsyth believed that there are really two overarching attributes of God: holiness and love. Put the pieces together (because God is a whole and complete reality), and you can speak of the “holy love” of God. His holiness is our assurance that he is different from the defilements of this world, and indeed, different from us, which contradicts any religious notion that God or the gods are just amplified versions of human nature.
But because God is love he is not separated from us. He is engaged, connected, involved. He is a God at work. Separate but not separated. Discriminating but not discriminatory. Hating evil but loving good. And, out of that love, he was willing to descend into this corrupt world in a great Incarnation and, in the person of Jesus, draw unholy people toward his holiness.
In 1 John 4 we find this clear, bold summary of the issue: “God is love.” It is a way of saying that this attribute is so central to who God is, this act so essential to who we must be in God, that we can set our focus there and spend a lifetime asking God to help us understand and live in this reality. Who will ever tire of adoring a God who is love?
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:7-12).
God’s love has many faces. It is his mercy, which is his willingness to suspend judgment while there is hope for correction or salvation in our lives. It is his benevolence, which is his pattern of bringing blessings into our lives. And then, of course, there is grace. Grace is giving. For lack of a better word, it is God’s giving-ness. He gives and gives and gives. No one will ever change that, because love is who God is. And, because of love, God does not spoil us. He gives what we really need, which is not always what we think we need.
[Excerpt from Putting the Pieces Back Together: How Real Life and Real Faith Connect. Click for more.]