God is love.
The apostle John tells us this in 1 John 4:8. Not just that God loves, which is also true, but that God is love. It follows, then, that any attribute of love is also an attribute of God. Discovering this opened up an entirely new way of reading my Bible.
Consider Romans 13:10, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” If God is love, it is also true that God does no wrong to a neighbor, and that God himself is the fulfilling of the law. This is substantiated by other scriptures, for God became incarnate in Jesus to be the only one who ever upheld the law perfectly.
Or consider 1 John 3:16, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.” Is it not also true that by this we know God, that he laid down his life for us? Or in 1 Peter 4:8, where Peter notes that “love covers a multitude of sins,” isn’t it also true that God covers a multitude of sins? In fact, it is through God’s action on the cross that the debt of all sin was covered.
If God is love, then all actions of love are also actions of God. If we exchange God for Love in one the most famous love passages of the Bible (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a), we read:
God is patient and kind; God does not envy or boast; He is not arrogant or rude. God does not insist on his own way; He is not irritable or resentful; He does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. God bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. God never ends.
Each of these is a remarkable attribute of God, but the one that struck me the most is this one: God does not insist on his own way.
If anyone has a right to insist on his own way, it’s God. There are even times I wish He would be a bit more insistent. After all, the freedom He grants his creation has allowed us to really mess things ups. But the freedom He grants us also allows us to turn back to Him. And He rejoices when we do.
There’s a lesson here for me. Me – the one who is not always patient and kind. The one who sometimes envies or boasts and, when overtired, is definitely irritable and resentful. If God does not insist on doing things His way, what makes me think that I have any right to insist on doing things my way? God, who really does know the right answer in every situation, does not insist on doing things His way. And I, who may not even have the right answer, have been known to insist on doing things my way.
“Tell us by what authority you do these things,” the religious leaders demanded of Jesus (Luke 20:2). As much as I want to condemn their arrogance, I see myself in their question. “I want to do it my way!” I say through my words and actions. And God lets me. Because the One who actually has all authority does not insist on his own way.
Jesus modeled for us true submission. “I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me,” he said (John 8:28). We serve a God who has all authority, who spoke the very creation into being, who orders our days. Our God offers us a path to peace and eternal life, and He will direct us there, but He will never force his direction on us. Instead, we will find God’s authority most distinctly when we submit most completely. By his very nature of love, God’s authority in our lives is manifested when we desire to live life his way instead of our own.
Janet Beagle, Ph.D. serves as director of graduate admissions for Purdue University and is a writer, a Bible study teacher, and a student of God’s word. In her spare time, she likes to eat other people’s cooking and hike with her dog, Marly. Read more of Janet’s Christian reflections at www.mustardpatch.org, and follow her @minimustard.