God Is Love

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love..

1 John 4:8

Are you smarter than a kindergartner?

If you ask a kindergartner to describe who God is, I’ll bet you that 9 times out of 10, their first answer will be 3 words long:

“God is Love.” And that’s a great answer.

But last week I had the pleasure of interviewing 12 candidates for ordained ministry. These are people who have completed a seminary master’s degree and gone through two years of residency–an enormous amount of time preparing and learning and getting ready to lead the church and be a bridge to the world.

Each of these candidates had to do extensive paperwork for us. They had to write out and preach a sermon, put together a representative Bible study and ordination project, and they had to submit a whopping 26 pages of deep theological answers to make sure they have sound doctrine and are a good fit in the United Methodist Church.

It’s an enormous amount of work to prepare for this career, and it means that students who are ordained are really ready to go. Our process is detailed and thorough.

I was on the team to interview candidates about their theology. In many ways it’s the most challenging area that candidates are most worried about. We try to make them feel comfortable and not ambush them with intricate questions that are designed to trip them up. No, we want to see a well-rounded, lived out theology present, and an ability to articulate verbally what matches up with their paperwork.

The very first question they have to answer is, “Who is God?” And 12 times out of 12, do you know what those candidate’s first answer was?

“God is love.”

Yep. Oh, these answers went on for a few pages, describing God’s power and presence, how God interacts with people and the Church, that kind of thing. But if you were to boil down those fancy answers into three words, there’s virtually no difference than what a 6 year old might give.

Well yes, there is a difference. As we learn and grow in our faith walks, we come to add depth to those three words. We find evidence of God’s love in the world. We come to grasp the depths of God’s love for us, and how that love was made known on the cross. You don’t have to have a Master’s of Divinity to know that God’s love is active and present in the Holy Spirit. God’s love is a holy mystery, and you and I are called to keep exploring, learning and growing in what that mystery means to us.

But yeah, if you want to sum it all up, you can’t do worse than those three simple words:

“God is love.”

Those candidate’s responses were refreshing and inspirational to me. Thy reminded me that all the complexities of faith rest on the simple source, example, and presence of God’s love.

“God is love”. But I know not to just leave it at that.

Now comes a life’s work:

Counting the ways.

Have a good week,