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Topic: The Love of God

Love and Values

by Darrel Cline

In a related article (130) we made the claim that love is the reason that there is evil and suffering in the world. I know this is an unusual claim, but it is a true one. In this article I want to make my case for its truth.

There are four words in the language of the authors of the New Testament that are translated by our word love. One of those words has to do with sexual interaction and we carry its idea over into English when we speak of making love. The second of those words has the meaning of animal attraction and we carry its idea over into English when we speak of our pets loving us, each other, food, or whatever. The third word has the meaning of emotional attachment/bonds. We carry this word over into our language when we hear the country and western songs about how desperate life is without someone's love. The fourth word has the meaning of assigning value to something. We use this concept with our word love when we are speaking of the value that we place on someone/thing.

This fourth word is the one that is used in the New Testament when it says that God is love. It doesn't mean that God engages in sexual activities (though the ancient pagans often did speak of their gods in that way). It doesn't address God's feelings (though He does feel infinitely). It basically addresses the issues of what God has decided is important. When we read in John 3:16 that God loved the world so much that He gave His Son to die for our sins, we are not reading about God's feelings. We are, instead, reading about God's values. He considered our salvation more important than the preservation of the emotional bonds He had with His Son in heaven without us.

Some of us have pondered the presence of evil and suffering and concluded that God isn't loving. This, however, reveals our ignorance of God's values. One thing that is obvious from the Bible is that God expects us to believe that He loves us and that His love does not mean that we shall escape all pain and suffering. But, some will object, if God really loved us, He would have prevented the entrance of evil and suffering into our world. That objection, however, is invalid because the facts are that God loves us (Calvary is what the philosophers call existentially undeniable--which only means it is a fact of history) and evil and suffering are in this present world (this is also existentially undeniable). It is up to us to put the two together without denying either one.

So, why is evil here? Because God values loving interaction between people. The record is that sin entered the world by man's choice and the suffering that it has caused was by man's choice. Could God have not prevented man from making that choice? Sure He could have--if he wanted man to be machine. Any moderately bright person can make a machine that will do what he wants it to do. But God is a God of love and His interest is in people becoming people of love--which means that they will have to learn to value God more than themselves. God let evil enter to put that test before us. Have you passed the test? You haven't if you are still blaming Him for what we have done.

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This is article #131.
If you wish, you may contact Darrel as darrelcline at this site.