The Enmity of Divine Love
I can't really help today but to write once more on the love of God and its meaning. The love of God is not just a substance but a process. It is a union and intimacy which for us is forged out of the fires of a holy jealousy and enmity. We can't know the union that characterizes the love of God without first knowing the enmity that distances us from that love.
The descriptor "God is love" has become a shibboleth in the church at large used to deny key realities of enmity out of which divine love is fashioned in coming to become man's portion. The human concept of love cannot cope with the fundamental enmity that shapes the context of divine love, but rather quashes and condemns everything and anything marked by enmity as anathematic to God's love. Consequently, in the carnal mind, there is in love no enmity, no division, no exclusion. Love is marked totally and only by harmony, unity and inclusivity.
(Yet the world itself cannot maintain such a definition for love. Love among all men is delimited, outside of which men display enmity, intolerance and hatred. Their condemnation of those who do not show love is itself unloving by their own standard. Thus they are hardly in a position to judge the love of God for having such boundaries.)
If the meaning of "God is love" is what men and the church say it is--totality of harmony, unity, and unconditional acceptance of all--then there is no room for nor way to justify all that God Himself displays toward men contrary to these qualities as recorded in Scripture. God could never be angry. God could never create or advocate division among men. God could display no wrath nor violence.
Yet the Scripture record is that, whatever God is as love, He is so in the setting of these other negative realities of enmity, separation from and hostility toward man. You see, whatever God is as love, He is in the context of holiness, and holiness means separation, and separation means enmity. The love of God is shaped by the fundamental animus of holiness. And in contemplating the meaning of "God is love," men ignore that animus at their own peril.
God's love has two dimensions, to wit:
God's love is first contained within the boundaries of His holy character. All His union, harmony and intimacy--everything we like to think of as His love--is found within this holiness, and not without it. This is the holy exclusivity of the Father/Son union. There and therein only is where you find the love of God unconditionally as you like to think of it.
But secondly, God's love further reaches outside those holy boundaries if by some means to reconcile to Himself those at enmity with Who He Is within His holiness. In this way we say that God loves His enemies. This is His extensionary love. It is a missional love--the unlike reaching out to unlike.
Yet this extensionary love is itself marked by the same defining holiness that thus inescapably evokes enmity, division and anger among those to whom it comes. (The Light shone in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.) In reaching out toward men, God unavoidably creates division among men--because God's love does not accept men for who they are outside the terms of who He Is in Himself. And so when men taste these bitter fruits of God's love in their midst, they do not see His love as love at all.
Look what happens when God shows up! He took my son away from me... He took my wife away from me... He took my friend away from me. He took my money away from me.You call that love? If that is what love is, I want nothing to do with this "God is love" stuff.
(And now we know why there are atheists, and why atheists reject Scripture as a record of who the true God must be. No One who is truly God could act toward men the way the God of the Bible acts toward men...destroying people in a Flood...killing babies in Canaan...killing His own people with snakes...threatening fire and brimstone judgment toward people...destroying the whole earth with plagues and casting people into a lake of fire to the end of His book. Some loving God.)
And you, Church, have no way to deal with this unless you accept the reality of the fundamental animus that lies at the heart of the love of God toward everything outside that love. The beauty of the love of God is contained within the terms of Who He Is, and anything outside those terms can only finally evoke the opposite of love from Him.
Let's look further at this reaching out love of God.
The extensionary missional love of God is marked by wondrous other qualities of which we cannot conceive. These are the qualities of patience, forbearance and longsuffering. That is, they are the qualities that put up with and endure what we are outside of His internal love in the course of His reaching out to us to reconcile us to Who He Is within His Holiness.
Patience, forbearance and longsuffering are the supernatural coating on God's extensionary love that enable His love to survive in the hostile environment of sin without naturally destroying what He came to save:
- These qualities are what have allowed the earth to exist since the first sin without having been summarily pulverized on the spot.
- They are what allowed Israel to continue to exist in the wilderness without having been destroyed on the numerous occasions God in His holy jealousy was ready to do so.
- They are what allowed Jesus to endure in this world all the way to the cross among His inferiors to the bitter end.
- And they are what today still allow the angels to hold back the four winds of destruction on this entire church age in face of the churchs universal harlotry throughout this age.
Yet men and the church mistake God's patience, forbearance and longsuffering as His unconditional acceptance of all men for who they are where they are--and to bolster their misinformed concept of the unconditional unity, harmony and intimacy of love that "God is just dying" to pour out on all men everywhere.
But men and the church do not truly comprehend the love of God. And each generation we get further away from the holiness revivals of two and three centuries ago only bears this out all the more.
I want to conclude this article by a simple but compelling look at the life of Christ--the one we all say we adore, and the one Whom we say we worship as God and to Whose Image we say we want to be conformed.
Any casual objective look at the life of Christ in scripture will show us anything but what we today call the love of God. Instead, we will see all the characteristics that have been outlined in this article:
We see a Christ whose core love in unity, harmony and intimacy is reserved exclusively for those on the inside of the fundamental separation unto Him and His Father. That is what the entire discourse of John 13-17 is all about--intimate unconditional love reserved to those on the inside.
We also see a Christ whose extensionary love to those on the outside of His internal love is nevertheless delimited by the qualities of fundamental animus eventuating in acrimonious division from His family, friends, country and the revered religious leadership of His culture. "I came not to bring peace, but a sword," said He.
(This animus reaches such heights that by the end of His ministry Jesus love for His Father is throwing over money tables in the temple and inveighing excoriating threats of judgment against both Pharisees and the entire nation in Matthew 23. To all with whom He entered contention, His love in reaching out could hardly be taken as such.)
Yet we also see a Christ whose missional love was thoroughly governed by patience, forbearance and longsuffering. These were the qualities that enabled Him to become the friend of publicans, harlots and sinners.
(Come on, people. What do you think was really going on in this friendship with publicans and sinners? Do you think Jesus was just "loving on these people" pouring out His intimate secrets to them? Do you think He was engaging in raucous laughter with them at all their foul language and bawdy jokes like one of the gang? Is that what you think was going on?
Or do you think that He was living toward them out of a higher patience that said through redemptive demeanor, "There is something I value in you that is right now stronger than my condemnation of the way you are besmirching Gods holy image through your life"?)
These qualities also enabled Him to put up with the follies of the attitudes of His own disciples, with whom He nevertheless could show holy exasperation. And they enabled him to put up with the repeated antics of a fickle populace who constantly contravened his directions upon receiving His miracles.
(We also read in His final prayer of John 17 that Jesus prayed for the same protective coating of sanctified love to characterize His disciples as He sent them into the world the same way He had been sent.)
So then, we see both the unconditional and conditional dimensions to Christ's love for us, pouring out His innermost love on His select disciples, reaching out in contentious missional love toward the nation while also acting in conditional restrained love toward the people under patience, forbearance and longsuffering.
And all these dimensions are shaped in some way by the fundamental animus of holiness. God's love is marked by an intrinsic enmity. And until and unless we account for that enmity, we will never have a true grasp and embrace of the love of God, and we will end up prostituting it before the world.
New Meadow Neck, RI
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship