Monday, September 17, 2007

is God love or hate?

I recall a preacher juxtaposing God's holiness with God's love in a sermon one Sunday morning many years ago. Which was a better description of the true essence of deity? He mentioned another person had once told him divinity was summed up in the Johannine phrase, "God is love." The preacher scoffed: "No! God is holy!" I wasn't much satisfied that Sunday morning, being around 16 or 17, and I remain less convinced today.

Perhaps he felt to reduce God essentially to love would render God too anemic or mushy or touchy-feely or . . . weak? I wonder if since then he's ever had the opportunity to listen to Rich Mullins' song where Rich calls it "the reckless raging fury that they call the love of God"? A United Church minister in my town astonished me by praying about God's "savage love" and it made me think of other metaphors and similes, "a love like thunder", "a storm of love", "a grim, unbending, unyielding love". I often think about the Song of Songs and how it describes love - a fire that cannot be put out, a fire more fierce than hellfire, a burning. A love that takes on the sword cut of human sin and the nail cut of the Cross is not a weakness in man or God, but a greatness.

So suppose you had God's holiness without love, what kind of darkness would that be? Even Paul knew love had to be the human bedrock or any action at all, even done in the name of God (or especially done in the name of God), would be a din like the din of the human hells of genocide, rape or war. And if true for us to hold to, true for God to hold to as well. For he who is human in Christ defines humanity for us all and it is from this essence of humanness that the milk of human kindness must flow or we are all doomed. Better a kind God than a merciless one, aloof in his flawless purity. Better a kind Christian than a perfect one who cannot stoop and risk being stained. Better a faith defined by kindness than one defined by power and might. Better the holy God totally caught up in forgiveness and pity than the holy God caught up completely in himself. Better the Christian caught up in the Cross and the bleeding than the Christian caught up in being a Christian.

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