I was talking to Josh a few days ago and wondering aloud if my blog was becoming something of a health-and-wealth-er. You know, I write things that make people feel good and avoid writing about what might tick them off. (‘Cause the 15-year-old Hannah trapped in 32-year-old Hannah’s body still wants you to like her, that’s why.)
And since my intent with this blog is to make God and his character the chief topic, writing just the happy stuff comes pretty naturally. God’s nature is beautiful and kind. A study of his character alone is powerful and life changing. (I promise. Try it. Read this. Or this.)
Yet, if I only tell you the fun stuff about God but never touch on the harder stuff, I am not being honest and I am certainly not doing you a favor. Because his justice, his holiness, his hatred of sin—those are part of who he is too. I don’t gravitate towards talking about those because those are difficult, and I want you to think happy thoughts about me.
That’s why I don’t want to write what I’m about to write.
But I will.
Because people are lying about God, you see. And that just won’t do.
God is love.
Yes! True! 1000 percent true. Shout-It-From-the-Rooftops True.
(In case you’re not sure it’s true or need some convincing, read about it here, and here, and here.) Open up any page in your Bible and it’s there. Heck, gaze at a night sky or listen to your children laugh or consider how your eyes blink and your knees bend without you having to ask them to—evidence of his heart for us is everywhere.
God is love, and he can be nothing but.
But some out there, most of whom probably do not know better, are taking that idea—his love—and distorting it. Instead of the deep, unconditional, unflinching Daddy-type love that it is, they are espousing something else altogether.
It might sound like this:
God is love…so he would never say ‘no’ to his children.
God is love…so he wants you to be happy no matter what form your “happiness” takes.
God is love…so he would never ask you to change. Be who you are, and have some fun along the way.
But these are lies, friends.
God is love. But, sometimes, Love must say ‘No.’
I am writing this from a balcony on the eighth floor of a condominium overlooking the ocean. The view is lovely.
The only thing obscuring my vision of the water is a railing in front of me. But I’m glad it’s there. We wouldn’t be staying here if that sucker wasn’t hooked on real nice and tight. (I checked. It is.) Still, we gave the kids a serious talking-to about this balcony. Because despite the bars being taller than they are, they could easily pull a chair up beside it and lean too far.
Christian doesn’t understand our stipulations. He’s 2 ½ and still occasionally sticks rocks up his nose, so, you know, his decision-making skills aren’t exactly top-notch. But even though he doesn’t get why he can’t go out on the balcony alone and he doesn’t like the consequences Josh and I have promised him if he tries, that’s okay.
We’re Mom and Dad. We’re smarter than he is, and we love him far too much. We’re not being mean. We’re being parents.
We can’t show any tolerance on the balcony-issue. Because disobeying the rules could be deadly, we have to be black and white about it. We have to say, “No, you can’t climb the railing, whether you understand why or not.” Anything less than vigilance on the issue would be negligence, and negligence is not love. Not ever.
We can see an outcome that he cannot. We will protect him because he cannot protect himself. We will say ‘no’ because we love him that much.
Our sins are deadly.
But we think we know best. We think that balcony is in our way. God should let us climb the railing because God loves us and because climbing that railing would make us happy.
But God is a Good Parent, and good parents say ‘No.’
He says ‘No’ to my inclination towards selfishness. Selfish ambition brings “disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:16). He wants to spare me that hurt.
He says ‘No’ to my pride because “pride goes before destruction…”(Prov. 16:18a).
He says ‘No’ to greed because “a greedy man brings trouble to his family” (Prov. 15:27).
He says ‘No’ to homosexuality, not because he does not love those who struggle with homosexuality but because (among other reasons) there is a “due penalty” for this kind of behavior that God does not want for those he loves. (Romans 1:18-32).
God is a Good Daddy, and good daddies say “No.”
(And, let me say, because it needs to be said: God is God, and he can say no to whatever he wants, whether we understand or agree with his reasons why or not. In comparison to God, we are still shoving rocks up our noses, folks.)
If you’re interested, there are plenty of far better and more thorough thoughts on this issue. Check out John Piper for the official Really Smart Person opinion on it. Or Matt Moore for a former practicing homosexual’s take. Do what you like or do nothing at all, but promise me this:
Promise me you won’t believe the lies. Promise me that you’ll check out the statements people make (including mine) about God and what he says about sin in general and homosexuality specifically before you take a hateful stance in either direction.
And please, please promise me that when you say that “God is love,” you will use the right definition of love. The Daddy definition, if you will:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but will have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17).
See? That’s True Love.