What is “the love of God”?

When you ask people to define who God is, often the first thing they will say is “God is love.”  D.A. Carson says that “occasionally you will hear somebody saying something like this: ‘It’s Christians I don’t like.  I mean, God is love, and if everybody were just like Jesus, it would be wonderful.  Jesus said, ‘Judge not that you be not judged.’  You know, if we could all just be nonjudgmental and loving the way Jesus was loving, then the world would be a better place.’

There is an assumption there about the nature of love, isn’t there?  People wrongly assume that love is nonjudgmental.  It does not condemn anyone.  It lets everybody do whatever they want.  Now, it is true that Jesus does condemn the kind of judgment that is self-righteous or hypocritical.  But God’s love is no some sort of spongy sentimentalism that just winks at sin.

It is true that God is love, but it is also true that God is holy, just, righteous, and glorious.  We will never understand God’s love and mercy without first understanding the seriousness of our sin and the justice of God’s wrath against us.  Jesus had a purpose in going to the cross; namely, to save people from condemnation that is already hanging over them (John 3:18, 36).

One author writes: “if God were not just then there would be no demand for his Son to suffer and die; if he were not loving there would be no willingness for his Son to suffer and die.”  In his love, God meets the demands of his justice in the sacrificial work of His Son on the cross (John 3:16-18).  1 John 4:10 says “this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation (wrath-absorbing sacrifice) for our sins.”

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