God is Love. Full Stop.

The gospel can be summarized in a single phrase …

Yme Woensdregt

As I grow older and (hopefully!) a little wiser, I become more and more convinced that the gospel can be summarized in a single phrase: God is love.

Full stop. Nothing else. No ifs, ands, or buts. No conditions.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry of the US Episcopal Church puts it this way, “If it doesn’t look like love, if it doesn’t look like Jesus of Nazareth, it cannot be claimed to be Christian. Then it’s a fundamental distortion of Christian teaching of what it means to follow Jesus.”

Love is the heart of our Christian faith. Faith doesn’t begin with a set of commandments to follow or a set of expectations to meet or even finding a certain way to live. Those are all secondary. The primary thing in Christian faith is God’s love for creation. All we need to do is learn to bask in God’s love, to revel in it, to play in the confidence of that love, and to know that God’s love is big enough and broad enough and wide enough and spacious enough to include all other people and all other creatures.

But so what? You might think that this way of viewing the gospel is not particularly thought–worthy or radical.

You wouldn’t be alone. Many people would say this is not enough. It’s too simplistic, too “easy”. It lets people off the hook. They would say that the gospel expects us to be faithful and obedient, and that God requires us to live a certain way. I hear a lot of people say, “God is love, but …”

God is love, but you have to accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour or you will go to hell.

God is love, but God demands obedience, or else.

God is love, but you can’t be gay or lesbian or transgender or queer.

God is love, but you can’t be Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist or follow indigenous spirituality.

God is love, but it’s okay to call out your enemies because they are also God’s enemies.

I disagree with all those statements.

Far too many Christians think that it’s their responsibility somehow to protect God’s holiness, or to project their understanding of God’s justice, or to be instruments of God’s wrath. They ask, “What about God’s demand to be righteous and holy? What about God’s demand for purity? Doesn’t that make it okay to exercise just a little bit of violence to make the world more pure? After all, Jesus’ death was God’s redemptive violence at work, wasn’t it?”

These questions show that how foreign it is in Christian circles in North America to think that the heart of the gospel is found in God’s love. They can’t simply accept that God is love, full stop. There always needs to be something more. There is always something which qualifies God’s love. There is always a boundary, a limit, to God’s love.

I respectfully disagree. In my opinion, the heart of Christian faith can be summarized very simply: “I am your God. You are my people. I will never stop loving you. I will never let you go.” As one of my theology professors used to say, “Nothing we can do will make God love us any more; nothing we can do will make God love us any less. God doesn’t know what it means not to love, not to forgive, not to hold us with compassion.”

God is love. Full stop.

God loves each of us. God loves all of us. It doesn’t matter to God who you are. It doesn’t matter what colour you are. It doesn’t matter what faith you espouse. Your sexuality doesn’t make any difference. It doesn’t matter what you have done or what you have left undone.

It might matter to us — but I want to be very clear that it doesn’t matter to God.

The apostle Paul said the same thing in his letter to the church in Galatia. It was a church which was being torn apart by different groups set against each other. Some people were saying that in order to be a good Christian, you had to become a good Jew first. But Paul says quite clearly, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

Paul says very clearly that all of our human distinctions count for nothing in God’s economy. As Eugene Peterson translates it in “The Message”, “In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non–Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal.”

All equal. All equally loved. And it strikes me that this way of living is quite radical. It was for Paul. It is equally radical for us.

The word “radical” comes from a Latin word which means “going back to the origins or essentials”. So when I say that the gospel can be found in God’s love, for me, that is simply radical. It drives us back to the roots of Christian faith in Jesus; it drives us back to our origins, in which Jesus came proclaiming a vision of how deeply God loves all people.

And if God is love … then 1 John 4 reminds us that if we claim to know this God, we will in turn love all people, for “everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

Here then, is the gospel.

God is love.

Full stop.

And if we believe that, we will live as lovers of all. It’s what Martin Luther meant when he said, “Love God … and do as you please.”

Yme Woensdregt is a retired Anglican Priest living in Cranbrook

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health reports three additional COVID-19 cases in region

The number of cases in the region since the beginning of the pandemic are now at 492

Conservative opposition critic tours through Kootenay riding on listening tour

Pierre Poilievre, the Tory finance critic, gathering local feedback on pandemic supports, recovery issues

It happened this week in 1913

Sept. 13 - 19. Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the newspapers at the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives

BC Wildfire Service lifts area restriction around Doctor Creek fire

The BC Wildfire Service has lifted an area restriction around the Doctor… Continue reading

Council approves fuel treatment project up Gold Creek

Council also endorses grant applications for funding additional treatment and FireSmart activities

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

70-year-old punched in the head in dispute over disability parking space in Nanaimo

Senior’s turban knocked off in incident at mall parking lot

Most Read