The public voice of the church to the world proclaims ‘God is Love’. And it’s true. Who can deny it? It’s in the Bible (see 1 John 4:8,16). So why is it amongst the first reactions to the gospel that people say, “If God is love, why is there so much suffering?” After all, a loving God would intervene and stop it all, wouldn’t he? It always surprises me that this reaction should be so swift.
It seems to me that the world can see the incompleteness of this message. God is love, but that’s not all that’s true. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t like the rest of the truth. It will stick with the ‘God is love’ idea when talking to our children, but in the real world it isn’t true. Granny and Grandpa have gone to heaven, but Mum and Dad are in the ground.
The other side of the truth is that God is holy. He altogether different from us. He is the Creator, we are his creatures. He is morally pure. But this does not become clear by measuring God against some objective moral standard. Who would be qualified to define the standard? God himself is the standard. He defines wisdom, goodness, love, truth – and holiness.
We are made in his image, above all other creatures, made for relationship – a covenant bond – with him. But, things as they are, we don’t care too much about that. There are too many things to be interested in, to worry about, to watch. We can sort it all, though.
God hates sin. His very nature is implacably opposed to it. In a sense, He does not choose to be against it – He just is. He is against us – sinners. Against you and me. We deserve to be cast out. The curse of death is upon us.
Every death reminds us of God’s opposition to us. Every tragedy. Every disaster. The fact that it doesn’t happen to each of us right now, is evidence of his patience with us. Every moment that we breathe we don’t get what we deserve. God is good – He gives us a chance. God is love.
The world is cynical about the ‘God is love’ message. When we preach ‘God is love’, without due regard to the holiness of God, the world smells a rat. It knows that can’t be all there is to it. True, the reaction is out of proportion. Man has no right to be cynical about any of God’s truth. But it is there, and the church has to deal with it. So she must be courageous and tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.