We hear much about how ‘God is love.’ In fact, from some, that is all we hear about God. But where would anyone ever get such a notion? We would not learn that from just looking at the world around us. If we just look at the world, we don’t even see God, much less any details about what God might be like. Nor, would we even get the concept of a loving God from most of the religions of the world.
So how do we know that God is a loving God? The belief that ‘God is love’ really comes from only one place: the Bible. And if we are going to place our faith in such an important belief as that, we should certainly look at what else the Bible says about God.
Our church and our culture today has in many ways taken the true article of faith that God is love, and extended it to all sorts of false extremes. To say ‘God is love’ has come to mean that God asks nothing, expects nothing, excuses even our indifference and defiance, and would never punish anyone for anything. Eternal life in heaven is an automatic ‘given’ for everyone these days, and there is little talk of commandments, the need for obedience, or the wrath of God against our disobedience, denial, and lack of attention. God is love is all this ‘new religion’ wants to say about God. The only firm belief anymore is that it doesn’t matter what you believe, and the only moral code is that it doesn’t matter what you do.
But is this what the Bible says? The Bible is God’s revealed Word, and is the only firm foundation for the belief that God is love. Therefore, we must be ready to look at everything the Bible says about God.
Christians are always erring on one side or the other: either over-emphasizing the wrath of God and not adequately proclaiming the grace of God; or, talking about the grace and love of God to the point of excluding everything else God says. Martin Luther once compared us to a drunken peasant trying to get on his mule, falling off on one side and then the other.
Many (even most) Christians in our culture have fallen off on the side of knowing only about the love of God. If that is where you are at, you may not like this next article. But take notice as you read– it is firmly based on the Bible. And the author is not cherry-picking a few verses out of context; not any more than you have to cherry-pick a few verses out of context to make the case for the overwhelming love and grace of God. Both truths are in the Bible, and we need to pay attention to both.
From Would a Loving God Wound Me?, by Greg Morse, staff writer for Desiring God ministries, posted September 19,2020 at:
Of the few things I recall from my short time of attending a particular church, the message covering the wall remains the strongest: “Prepare to Meet Your God.” Even when one did not wish to see it, the command stared at you.
With every distraction from the sermon it spoke — Prepare to meet your God. When attention began to drift in prayer, it found me — Prepare to meet your God. I prayed harder, sang louder, and listened better because of that inescapable command that was always there.
I also remember the day I gathered the nerve to look up the ominous words. The reference was also on the wall. Amos 4:12, it said. I began in verse 6, where the Lord spoke these words to his people:
“I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of bread in all your places, yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord.
“I also withheld the rain from you when there were yet three months to the harvest, yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord.
“I struck you with blight and mildew; your many gardens and your vineyards, your fig trees and your olive trees the locust devoured; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord.
“I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword, and carried away your horses, and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord.
“I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord.
“Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!” (Amos 4:6-12)
Prepare to meet your God. From Amos, this was not a call to worship for a Sunday service. It was a terrifying summons for an adulterous people to brace themselves to meet their jealous Husband in judgment. Yet this alone did not trouble me. All that God did before the severe warning also shook me.
God desired for Israel to return to him, so what did he do? He gave them cleanness of teeth (meaning he starved them); he withheld rain from them, tanking their food supply and economy; he destroyed their vineyards; he spread diseases among them; he killed young soldiers, repossessed their warhorses, and decimated their forces; he ordained for flames to overtake cities. God afflicted them in order that they should turn and seek him.
They refused. And since none of these trials brought the people to him, he would go to the people. “Prepare to meet your God.”
Is this picture incompatible with the God you worship? The God who, out of love for you, will harm you in order to save you? A love that will cut, break, and cause you to bleed — like an expert surgeon — in order to heal you? How many pews, I wondered, would have emptied if that verse would have been preached in all its severity? (continued…)
Look mercifully, O Lord, we beseech Thee, on the affliction of Thy people; and let not our sins destroy us, but let Thine almighty mercy save us; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.
—Lutheran Altar Service Book, 1958, Augsburg Publishing House