With all the hate flying around these days, it’s tempting to think that somehow God himself is in on the action—choosing sides, spewing abuse at the “bad guys,” just waiting and watching for a certain people group to go down. Surely God hates the deplorables, whoever they are—Republicans, Democrats, blacks, whites, men, women, homosexuals, homophobes, Muslims, Evangelicals (who are, after all, just a bunch of hypocrites, right?).
I have to wonder who this God is, although beyond that I’m certainly glad I don’t know him. I would never want to make the acquaintance of such a deity, let alone feel that my eternal destiny was in his hands.
The God I know is a God of love. Does it sound presumptuous of me to say that I know God, and that I know he’s a God of love? Why should it? He has done everything possible to tell us who he is, including coming to earth in the flesh and walking among us. He wrote a remarkably detailed love letter to us – it’s called the Bible, a book I read every morning to begin my day. It tells me a great deal about who he is and what he has done for us.
Too, I have the inarguable witness of other people. Hundreds of them. I myself have interviewed countless numbers of believers and have read the stories of many more, and their experience of meeting God has always been the same. When they encountered God, they discovered love.
Here are just four examples I’ve read about, the testimony of an African-American woman, a Jew, a Muslim, and a gay man:
Ethel Waters, a well-known 20th-century jazz singer, met God one night when she kneeled at the altar of a little church: “Love flooded my heart and I knew I had found God and that now and for always I would have an ally, a friend close by to strengthen me and cheer me on.” (1)
Andrew Klavan, a Jew raised in a secular household, was baptized as a follower of Christ in adulthood. Upon his conversion, he discovered this: “You cannot know the truth about the world until you know God loves you, because that is the truth about the world.” (2)
Nabeel Qureshi was a devout Muslim until he met the living Christ. What he discovered wasn’t a God who loved him from that day forward, but a God who had loved him all along. Shortly after his conversion, in the ordinary act of spotting a man walking down the sidewalk, this thought came to him: “Did he know that God loved him from the foundations of the earth? With a power far exceeding the immensity of the cosmos, He turned all His attention to creating that man and declared, ‘You are My child. I love you.’” (3)
David Bennett, a gay man, once perceived God as “an angry, distant deity.” Then he came to know who God really is. He claims that in the moment of meeting Christ, “For the first time, I knew that God was real, and that he loved me. This changes everything, I realized.” (4)
Indeed, knowing that God is love changes everything.
Knowing that God is love frees us from fear, from guilt and shame, from bitterness and anger. And it frees us from our own hate—for other people and even for ourselves. It’s because we hate that we think God hates, but that simply isn’t so. God hates evil but he doesn’t hate people. He hates what evil does to people, but his love for people is steadfast even, I believe, when they choose not to love him in return.
God is who he is just as we are who we are, and just as we ourselves want to be known for who we are, so does he want to be known for who he is. Who he really is.
And that is Love.
The God of the universe loves you, no matter who you are, and what he most desires is that your life be a love story with him.
(1) Finding God: A Treasury of Conversion Stories, John Mulder ed., p. 249.
(2) The Great Good Thing, by Andrew Klavan, p. 237
(3) Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, by Nabeel Qureshi, p. 276.
(4) A War of Loves, by David Bennett, p. 81.