I think this was the first thing I learned in Sunday School, and for good reason. Those three short words convey a powerful message.
For a bit more context, you can read the surrounding passages in 1 John, chapter 4, verses 7-8:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God. Everyone who loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.
(I learned that as a song and can still remember the tune.)
Back when Krista Tippet’s show on NPR was called “Speaking of Faith,” she had a guest who spoke about her belief that God is love. The guest did not mean that the essence of God’s being is love, but literally meant that God is love. That whenever you experience love you are experiencing God. That the only way to experience God is to love others.
I think my personal beliefs are more along the lines that the essence of God’s being is love, but I was challenged by her views, and think that they hold some truth. I know that I feel God’s presence when I feel loved by family and friends, and I often sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in an unexpected act of kindness from a friend or stranger. I hope my family, friends and other people I encounter feel similarly blessed when I reach out to them.
When Christianity is so firmly rooted in the message that “God is love,” how does hate seep in?
I don’t want to give the Westboro Baptist Church any more attention than they already are getting, but I do want to say that their “god” bears no resemblance to mine. They have carried signs that say “God hates fags,” but Jesus showed us over and over again that there are no exceptions to the rule that “God is love.” God loves all of us.
When I was little, I was taught that the commandment that you should “not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain,” meant that you shouldn’t use God’s name as a curse word. That may be true, but I think hateful speech is an even more offensive use of God’s name.
I was saddened to hear that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is opposing new FHA regulations that would ban housing discrimination based on “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.” (I am not Catholic, but I know that the Catholic Church represents “church” to many Americans, Catholic or not.) According to an article on the Today’s Catholic blog of the archdiocese of San Antonio, the USCCB attorneys have “stressed that ‘we are not suggesting that any person should be denied housing.'” Still, they said,
But neither should a recipient or sub-recipient of HUD funds be required to facilitate cohabitation between unmarried persons, be in it an unmarried heterosexual couple or a homosexual couple, or facilitate shared sleeping areas or bathrooms, especially when the requirement is (a) divorced from any command of Congress, (b) reflects a policy that is opposite the one adopted by Congress, and (c) stands to affirmatively violate the recipient’s or sub-recipient’s religious beliefs.
If they don’t want discrimination banned, doesn’t that mean that they believe that they might be hampered by an anti-discrimination provision? And doesn’t that mean that their normal practices would deny some people housing?
I understand that the Catholic Church is in a difficult position. I know that Catholic organizations do wonderful works to help those in need, and probably do assist people of all sexual orientations and identities (and I know that many Catholics don’t share these particular “official” views). But when the Catholic Church opposes anti-discrimination housing laws, it seems to be unable to love the sinner when it has a particular distaste for their “sin.”
Is this any way to teach that God is love?