I was watching TV the other night and lo' and behold one of my favourite movies was on. I have enjoyed the Sound of Music since I was a kid. The music is wonderful and Julie Andrews as Maria is a delight. One of my many favourite songs from the musical is "Do-Re-Mi." It begins:
"Let's start at the very beginning
A very good place to start
When you read you begin with A-be-see
When you sing you begin with do-re-miDo-re-mi, do-re-mi
The first three notes just happen to be
Let's see if I can make it easy"
This is great advice. Let's start at the very beginning, it's a very good place to start. When we learn to read we begin with A-B-C, when we talk of God, we must begin with L-O-V-E.
Love is not just one among other attributes of God or even number one in a hierarchy of attributes rather Gods essence, nature, very being is Love [full stop]. God's justice, sovereignty, changelessness, mercy, correction, knowing, ways of working in the Cosmos start from and flow from the very essence of who God tells us God is - Love.
A couple of quick examples:
God's justice is shaped by love. God's justice flowing from love by love is restorative. It corrects, reconciles, heals and makes whole. Divine Love makes Beautiful. God's justice is not punitive in nature. Punishment doesn't satisfy justice.
God's sovereignty is shaped by God's love nature. God's sovereignty is kenotic in nature or said another way God's love is self-giving (Phil. 2:7). The best picture of the nature and disposition of God toward creation is Jesus (John 1:1, 1:8, 14:9, Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3). God's sovereignty is unControlling. God's love lures, pleads and even sometimes commands but is never coercive because Love requires free will [to the degree that we can be free].
God never changes - When God's immutability starts and is a fruit of divine love God's nature of perfect love never changes. However perfect love is relational and the God-who-is-love is impacted and influenced by the uniqueness of relationship with that which God loves. There are many instances in the scriptures where God changes - her mind (Exodus 32:19, Jerimiah 18:8), where God regrets (Genesis 6:6–7, 1 Samuel 15:11) and instances where he is influenced by people's actions and prayers (Exodus 32:11-14, Jonah 3:10).
God loves - no if, and or buts. God is uniquely relational and relates to us and all of creation with love, all the time with the same intensity. God's love is pluriform. This means that the way God expresses that love to each is different but no less intense. Each of us is unique and we respond to God differently remembering that God loves us as best suited for our unique personalities, situations and seasons.
There are many other examples and hopefully, in these few examples, we see that it is crucial that when we begin to think about God that we begin with LOVE - the very best place to start. When we start somewhere else we can get a whole lotta smudge on our view of God, and this has real-life implications on how we see and live in the world. This explains how sometimes well-meaning Christians can believe and act out of ideas about God that are in fact the very opposite of who God is. When we start in any other place we easily find ourselves in ditches that are unhelpful and some of these ditches have impinged segments of the church for centuries hobbling their most sincere efforts of being light and becoming Good News.