Yes, God is Love, but Love is Not God
Ah, 1 John 4:7-14. It is mostly likely the most misquoted and misrepresented scripture in the entire Bible after "Judge not lest ye be judged." For those of you who want to read it, here it is:
"7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world."
Enter the modern shoot from the hip-pocket theologian. You often will hear something like, "God is love, so the only thing we should see from Christians is love," but if you ask them, you'll find that their version of love only involves universal acceptance and affirmation. Though maybe you'll also hear something like this, "God says that we are to love one another so I can't tell them that how they're living is wrong, after all, that's not loving, it's condemning."
Slowly but surely the modern Christian begins burying their responsibility to evangelize and to help others recognize the sin in their lives behind a list of comforting platitudes that make them happy. This out of context scripture is a big one. Yet how many people read just beyond that to John chapter 5? How many take the scripture in its full context and not just snip out a part that you want to use to live life your way instead of God's way?
You see when you understand how John defined love, it changes that desired narrative. John Chapter 5:
"2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith."
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. This is also how we know that we love others, when we keep His commands. So, God is love, and love is keeping His commandments. Therefore, God keeps His commandments. That's a fairly sound logical circle. Understanding this keep the John 4 scripture from being in conflict with others. God is Love, we are to be love, and love is keeping His commands towards Him and others. So how then do we end up in a place where we use this scripture to justify not sharing the gospel and warning people who are not following the commands of Christ? Simple, we insert our own definition of love. We substitute John's definition of love for one of universal acceptance and tolerance. We, the reader, become the giver of the message and not the one who wrote it. It's the ultimate act of arrogance as we re-write the scriptures to fit our narrative instead of trying to understand the message that God has for us within these sacred pages.
God is love, but love is not God, at least not as man has now decided to define love. Furthermore, saying that God is love is fine, as long as you are not removing all of His other attributes. The Bible never says that God is ONLY love. In fact the Bible goes out of its way, even in the New Testament to show that God is serious about how we live (hello Ananias & Shiphira). God is love, but God is also just, merciful, vengeful, jealous, kind, generous, and many other attributes that find their Holy completion in Him.
As long as Christians, Preachers, and even Churches continue to preach a redefined version of love that ends up being more a version universalism than a truly Biblical understanding, we will not be able to convince others. After all, if the Christian can live wildly like the world, hatefully like the world, dismissive like the world, and comfortable like the world, then why should they want to join us? We're just like them. There is no more salt or light in the world, it has been shrouded in watery darkness.
No, we as the Church need to step up and be who we were meant to be. We are a people who are called to love others to the point that we will follow Christ's example of reaching compassionately for them in their sin, while simultaneously telling them to "Go and sin no more." We've become very good at the former, and unfortunately forgotten about the latter.
Why not? After all it's comfortable. I don't want to do it. It's someone else's job anyway. I mean, isn't that why I pay my missionary money to the Church? The list is long, but those who love Him obey His commands. So we should start with His final one, right? The most important? The one that He left us with as He departed? His very last words on this Earth? "18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'" - Matthew 28:16-20