It’s interesting how some people characterize the Gospel. We all know that “gospel” means “good news” (or at least we all know it now), and Christians know this is somehow central to their religion. The problem is that there are a lot of different gospels out there, and people need to think a bit on a given formulation of the Gospel before they know how close to the actual gospel we see in scripture.
One of these permutations of the Gospel is the “God is love” camp. Of course, the statement that God is love is true. We have it on scriptural authority that it’s true (1 Jn 4:16), God reveals himself as love. When we think a little, though, we recognize that the statement on its own may be a little questionable. After all, we live in a society that thinks “love” includes everything from sexual attraction to a particular fondness, to sentimentality. God thus becomes either a freaky stalker boyfriend (really freaky for heterosexuals like me) or a giant amorphous care-bear. This is definitely not good news, especially if one notices that we humans are quite adept at evil. It also assumes that the only object of God’s love is me.
The camp that focuses on God as love as the Gospel tends to minimize the problem of evil in the world. It seems to them that whilethe world is messed up, we ourselves are mostly okay. That’s simply not true from a scriptural perspective (Rom 3:23), and its manifestly not true if we reflect a little on how we treat others and think about them in our hearts (of course, maybe you, dear readers are far more noble than I…… I am a sinner, and become more convinced of it daily).
There’s something in me that wants the wrongs righted, that wants to see evil punished and justice prevail. The Bible promises us that God will do this, but that means there’s a problem for me, and anybody else who sins. If God is not just love, but also just and righteous, to fix the world and punish evil, he’s going to have to punish me somehow. I get the feeling my sin is a far bigger deal than even I imagine. If I am to come to God as I am, for God to be just to those I have wronged (including himself) I need to be punished. If God loves justice, and loves righteousness, and loves the people I have wronged, I cannot go unscathed before the throne of His glory.
The good news is that a just God has found a way to deal with my sin, taking the punishment on himself in Christ. That is true love, but it is neither a care-bear or a nutty sexual thing. Nor is the wholeness of that Gospel contained in the (true) phrase, God is love.