6- Love is God (Universality of Love)
What is believed:
“Christians should express unconditional love for all sinners!” Since God is love; therefore, whenever we love others we are mimicking God. “Love does no harm to its neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom 13.10). God loves everyone exactly the same, so we must love everyone exactly the same as God.
Why it is wrong:
The prophet, Jehu, rebuked Judah’s King, Jehoshaphat, for siding with Israel’s horrendously wicked king, Ahab (husband of Jezebel), by asking him: “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord?” Because of this, the wrath of the Lord is upon you” (2Chr 19.2). Did God really say that He loves everyone equally and so should we? Does He really not hate anyone and commands us to do the same? Is God really defined by our understanding of love or should our definition of love be developed as we grow to understand God?
We make three mistakes believing that love defines God, rather than God defines love: First, if love is God, and God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, then love should be universal, the same for all He’s ever created. Second, if love is universal—God loves the world the same—then God can never hate anyone, which means He lies when He tells us that He does. Lastly, we believe that love is a verb fulfilled by singular actions like “forgiveness,” “acceptance,” “tolerance,” or “compassion.” We “love” because of what we do and not who we are.
How we ought to believe:
“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love…. In this is love, NOT THAT WE LOVED GOD, but that He loved us” (1John 4.10). First, we must understand that our love for God is not the definition of the word. How do we love God? “This is love for God: to obey His commands” (1John 5.3). We love God by obeying His commands, He does not love us by doing the same. God loves us by sacrificing His Son as propitiation for our sins, we CANNOT do the same. Husbands and wives love each other through the act of sex (1Cor 7.5), they do not love others by having sex with all they meet. Children love their parents by obeying their commands, not by obeying the commands of every stranger (Eph 6.1-3). Love for a person is defined by the relationship one has with that person—it CANNOT be universal.
Second, though we would never say, “God is hate,” God does in fact, hate. “The Lord loves righteousness and justice” (Ps 33.5)… “but the wicked and those who love violence His soul hates” (Ps 11.5). Those who love what God does not, He hates, while those whose souls adore what He does, He loves (Rom 9.13). When we say that God loves those whom He actually hates, we are creating a god who is not supported by the Bible, but rather by our definition of what we want God to be. If we define God as we do universal “love” (which doesn’t exist), then He would never send anyone to Hell, allow anyone to suffer, or send His own Son to die since He has no “sin” to hate. Though it is practical and ethical for we fellow sinners to “love the sinner but hate the sin,” God does not do the same.
Lastly, Jesus told His disciples that if anyone would follow Him they must “hate [their] father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, even [their] own [life]” (Lk 14.26). Well-intentioned Christians often misquote this verse by changing the definition of the Greek “miseo” to mean “love more than,” even though the word only and always means, “hate.” The problem isn’t the word itself but how we define it through our usage: “I hate idiots, sickness, or Raiders’ fans” means that I vehemently oppose them from the pit of my stomach—hate becomes an emotionally driven reaction to what does me emotional, physical, or mental harm. However, hate, like love, is not defined by singular actions like “murder” or “sacrifice,” but are instead behaviors bound by character. We love because He first loved us, recreating us into new creations, reformed after His image to love as He commands (2Cor 5.17-20). If we are truly His children, then we will hate anything and anyone (even ourselves) who keeps us from loving just as God commands.
“Better is open rebuke than hidden love,” (Prov 27.5). We love others when we see them as individuals to be loved as differently as they are from one another but always in accordance with how God commands. If we really loved them, and we know that love is defined by God, then helping them learn how to love God should be our ultimate aim, even if such love would be defined by our world as “hate.”
References: http://www.allaboutgod.com/god-is-love.htm; http://makestraightpaths.com/god_is_love.htm; http://godslovewins.com/; http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/Evils%20in%20America/Sodomy/hate_crimes.htm