Love Wouldn't

My mother used to tell me and my sister that she loved us before we were born, before she ever knew us. As a soon-to-be father, I've only come to appreciate this more. I have absolutely no knowledge of who that little person is, but it doesn't matter. My love grows by the day for someone I've never met.

Love is a mysterious and enigmatic thing. Probably because it's wrapped up in the person of God. But as perplexing as it is, it's funny to see how many people try to use it as a theological weapon.

In defending that day's platform, I've often seen it said that, "God is love. That means he wouldn't...[fill in the blank]." The problem with this is that it begs the question. Which is to say that it makes its case by defining "love" as the opposite of the thing being argued against. Or simply, it's like saying that God wouldn't do this thing because he wouldn't do it.

But our limited experiences impose no boundaries on what he can or cannot do. And to think so--to think that we can truly define love--is to put limitations on the God who is love. Rather than embark on such an exercise in futility, I recommend we sit at the feet of Jesus and consider what God has done in love.

For a God who claims to be love, the book of Joshua is a sticking point for many. And even for those of us who think ourselves strong in the faith, it's not easy to reconcile the God who died for us, and the God who committed genocide. More than once. It's at times like these that we often forget about the patience of God. See for yourself:
Then the Lord said to [Abram], “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there...in the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” Genesis 15:13, 16
It's easy to get the impression that God marched his chosen people into a foreign land, stuck a flag in it, and told everyone already living there to get out or die (some politicians would like us to believe that, as well). But the truth is, God willingly enslaved his own people for hundreds of years... just to give the extremely evil inhabitants of the land more time. More time to recognize their evil and turn from it.

Because, believe it or not, God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Even the apostle Peter said that, "the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).

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That's the side of God's love we like. The merciful, patient side. The side that lets us get away with things. But just like freedom, patience is a relational word. Patience means patience from something. And that something is the holiness of God.

The same apostle who gave us hope in God's patience also reminds that, "the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare" (2 Peter 3:10). The scary God of the Old Testament will return (in a way I'm unwilling to speculate). Not because he's unloving; because he's patient. And he's giving us more than enough time to turn from our penchant for evil.

It's not necessarily any easier to swallow, is it? And I'm certainly not looking forward to disciplining my child. But love that is patient recognizes that a point will come when enough is enough. No matter how much we want to say, "God wouldn't," love would.

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