Over the past couple of weeks, I have had a few interesting encounters that I have caused me to wrestle with our reductionistic approach to the phrase, “God is Love.” We have reduced God to our culture’s misunderstanding of love. Our culture perceives love to be inclusion, acceptance, and unconditional love. As a result, our litmus test for godliness is this form of self-affirming love.
About two weeks ago at Untapped Theology (formerly known as Theology on Tap), three young adults sat down to talk with us. It was clear that they were interested in steering the conversation towards sexual ethics in order to pigeonhole the preacher. That way they could decide whether or not to actively engage in further discussion. From their perspective if the church was not inclusive of all (it was broader conversation than the homosexuality issue) then it was not valid to their faith perspective.
As a result, I realized that for young adults, the ability for many to actively engage in faith conversations will come only if it can reinforce their a priori belief that “God is all-inclusive-love” that affirms their self-understanding.
However, I spoke with our seasoned associate today who started to describe “God is love,” not from our cultural perspective, but from the Hebraic idea of hesed.
Hesed is singular devotion, covenantal love that at times does not feel good. Being exiled for 400 years, being left in the wilderness, being sent by a crucified Lord into hostile territory is not an all-inclusive-love, rather it is a love that transforms, refines, hurts at times, devistates but does not destroy.
This is the challenge our denomination is facing, we want to be all things to all people so that everyone feels warm and uplifted. Like the contemporary worship experience, we are falling into emotive gnositicism (if causes an emotional response it must be god). But in doing so we are not proclaiming that “God is Hesed-love.”