One verse in the Bible more accurately describes God’s character than any other. See if you can figure it out.
I realize that my opening line is pretty all-encompassing, but I don’t believe the conclusion is a stretch. The latter part of 1 John 4:8 more comprehensively describes God than anything else: “God is love.”
I could probably end this column right there and you’d get the point. But allow me to opine just a bit on how big this statement really is.
Think about the person you know who best illuminates love—you know, real, biblical, 1 Corinthians 13 love. Maybe it’s your husband, mother, brother, or child. How would you describe this person to someone else?
You might say, “My dad is the most loving person I know.” Or “My wife loves people more than anyone I know of.” You would use a form of the word "love" as a verb, an action.
Now go back to 1 John 4:8. If the writer intended to talk about God the same way we describe the actions of a human, John would have said, “God is loving.” Many examples describe God’s actions. For example, He is just and merciful. Saying “God is love” is the same as saying “God is justice” or “God is mercy.” These descriptions are not found, however, because they are already encompassed by the comprehensive description in 1 John 4:8.
John wants us to know that love isn’t just something God does. Rather, love originates from Him. It is the foundation of His character. You cannot segment, subtract, or alter it. Everything God is—including His justice and mercy—is rooted in this unalterable fact: God is love.
Think how transformative this knowledge is. You’ve undoubtedly run into people who don’t believe in God, or have become jaded toward Him. I’ve found that most of the time unbelief in all its forms is caused by a wrong or incomplete understanding of God in the context of the things that happen every day on our planet.
If God is in control, and all about love, why does He allow natural disasters to rip cities apart? How can He allow innocent children to be shot in their classrooms? How can He watch people die simply because they don’t have enough food? How will He handle the eternal destinies of those who grew up knowing only poverty, those surrounded by drugs, broken homes, and death? What about those who live in unreached parts of the world, or people whose mental abilities have been compromised through no fault of their own?
Honestly, I have no idea.
But here is what I know: God is love. Therefore, every decision He makes is consistent with this truth, and the eternal destiny for every person who has ever lived will be fair.
We sometimes get into trouble by applying human logic to situations that call for divine wisdom. I’ve found great solace in 1 John 4:8; in knowing that everything about God flows from an unalterable reality of perfect love.
Today, remind yourself—and everyone you care about—of this life-changing truth: God is love.
Jimmy Phillips is exective director of marketing at San Joaquin Community Hospital.