From: Clifton Stringer
"...God is love." 1 John 4.8b
This is the best news. "God is love." No other words, no other news, even comes close.
Except that my mind frequently renders this news too flat, an abstract principle, something I can control, manipulate, comprehend; sterile, like a sealed band-aid.
The whole Bible can be read as a pedagogy in our not hearing this news that "God is love" as a flat, abstract principle.
From the stories of creation, to God's curses and provisions after Adam and Eve's fall, through flood and Babel, to God's unforeseeable calling of Abram, God's intimate covenanting with the same, and God's repeated dramatic interventions and judgments on behalf of Israel, rebirthing Israel out of Egypt through ten plagues then the Red Sea, leading Israel in the desert by a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, giving Moses commandments, twice, at Mount Sinai, through the travail and tumult of the desert wandering, faithful and unfaithful, that follows, and through the ups and downs of judges, kings, prophets, exile, return, second temple, Roman occupation -- the whole light and dark history, through major theme and minor, trains us, hooks us, prepares us, coaches us with our feeble capacities to think of a God who is incomprehensible and interventionist, a consuming fire, an electing God, active beyond the grasp and grasping of our concepts, holy, other, utter good, great king above all gods, inexplicably jealous for our liberation, our flourishing, our obedience, our salvation.
Reading the Bible trains us to see that "God is love" is not an abstract principle.
It is a Word that is wider than the world, deeper than every expanse of goodness and every lovely coast-to-coast distance on the face of the deep, and it is more frightful than every evil too, this news that "God is love."
Worst and best, the news that "God is love" is actual in material history in a grotesque execution, a public spectacle in which the victim is paradoxically and ironically revealed to be the God of the executioners -- by a vanishing corpse which selectively reappears resurrected. To call Jesus Christ's death an "expiation" is to name this death and resurrection as the fulfillment of Israel's covenantal temple worship.
For us, to claim, in faith, that "God is love" is to stand within a kingdom of priests, wild shoots grafted onto the vine of God's chosen Israel, priests with bloody hands like the Levites, prophets of a love that we cannot control and which threatens to burn away all sin.
Clifton Stringer is a Ph.D. Candidate in Historical Theology at Boston College. He writes at www.ministrymatters.com, is author of a Bible study on John 9 called Christ the Lightgiver, and, much more importantly, is Lindsey's husband and Eva's and Anselm's dad. All of these people are Texans, more or less.