God is love.
Consider these words from John Henry Newman, in Prayers, Verses and Devotion: “The Father loved from eternity His only begotten Son, and the Son returned to him an equal love. And the Holy Ghost is that love in substance, wherewith the Father and the Son love one another . . . And when Thou hadst created us, then Thou didst but love more, if that were possible. Thou didst love not only Thy own Co-equal Self in the multiplied Personality of the Godhead, but Thou didst love Thy creatures also. Thou wast love to us, as well.” Nothing can be said truly about God and God’s purpose in calling creation into being which blunts or otherwise qualifies this essential and irrevocable doctrine.
What is love to do, however, when so-called prophets lie and deceive the people and teach them to forget the divine name? (Jer. 23:23-29) To such prophets, love is like a fire and like a hammer. The divine substance of love is necessarily a judgement against violations of love. When God sees bloodshed and hears the cries of the afflicted, God’s love is a witness against the unrighteous (Is. 5:1-7). Love divides and calls for decision in the face of a world boiling in blood. With such a world, God will not make peace, will not settle, will not accept the ruination of his beloved vineyard.
Listen to Jesus, and know that it will not be easy. “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed. Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Luke 12:49-53). This is not a happy picture.
Peace with the world as we find it is not the peace of God. How are we to interpret the present time? This is the time of decision, and decision invokes a crisis. We must walk through the fire of God, submerge into the water of God, leave a dying world, and come to life again purified and washed in the new life of Christ. Then, and only then, may we return to our family and our friends and our neighbors and our communities with a proper and transformed love. We leave the world and go out to Christ; we return to the world in Christ.
A decision must be made, and yet — thanks be to God — the decision has already been made. “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name” (John 15:16). We are God’s elect, God’s chosen. Love is calling, love is at the door, love is waiting, and love is prompting a response. A human response to God will feel like a decision, and it will, in some manner, initiate a crisis. There is a measure of suffering in moving from one’s old self to a new being. In this life, that suffering never quite ends, though it may be eased by gifts of rest and grace. Still, one’s new life in Christ begins, continues, and ends in love. One love, in a Trinity of persons.
Look It Up: Luke 12:49.
Think About It: The Fire of Love.