We who are Christian believe that God is love. We believe it with our souls because we feel the enduring truth of it — and we believe it with our minds because in the Bible (at 1 John 4:8), it says, right there in black and white, “God is love.”
Which pretty neatly settles it.
But wait! There’s more!
And we all know what that “more” is, of course. That “more” is the whole rest of our religion. That “more” is Christ’s willing sacrifice for us on the cross.
Chocolate and candies can really send a message, for sure — but nothing says “I love you” like volunteering to trade the spiritual well-being of another for having yourself slashed, beaten to a pulp, and then hammered to a giant cross so that you can die a slow and unimaginably agonizing death.
That is love. If they could figure out a way to package and sell that at Hallmark, then … well, then Hallmark would have some pretty dramatic window displays.
Of course, that would mean that instead of flowers and chocolates for Valentine’s Day, we’d all have to give our beloveds Band Aides and iodine. So … not so good.
The point is: Christ slaughtered himself for us. And he didn’t do it as a God, because (I assume) that would have caused him a great deal less physical pain than it did. Instead, he let himself be tortured as a man, complete with at least as many nerve endings as you or I have. And when it happened, Jesus didn’t bleed sunlight, and he didn’t cry tears of rain, and he didn’t sweat beads of gold.He bled real blood; he cried real tears; he sweat real salt. And you won’t read about it in the Bible, but I’m betting he also wet himself with real urine.
What happened that day to our Lord was as ugly as ugly gets.
We know that. And we know Christ had to die exactly as he did, because he knew that that’s the kind of hard truth and imagery we would need in order to make and keep perpetually real for us the fact that he did virtually everything possible to ensure that we understood that, for all of eternity following the moment he said “It is finished,” the price of every single nasty, selfish, destructive, mean thing we ever did or ever could do was paid off, by him, in full.
God became a man who allowed his skin to be torn from his body so that those who believed in the miracle of his being and purpose would never have to live with the caustic, grueling, ferociously destructive force that is unrelieved guilt. He took into his body the totality of the negative ramifications for everything wrong or evil that any of us would ever do or think, and he forever put all of it to rest. In terms as true as they are simple, Jesus Christ traded his life for our freedom.
So yeah, I think “God is love” pretty effectively covers it. To be honest, I’m almost surprised there are any other words in the Bible at all.
Follow-up: Why did God have to sacrifice himself?