'McDonald's' faith: assembling our own god (small 'g' intended) as we would a burger, with the desire to pick the qualities we like the best—this method may create a palatable sugar-coated god, but it also constipates our faith.
Consider God's most famous attribute, love, in contrast to one of the least prominent, holiness. We all know God is love. We all know the first part of John chapter 3, verse 16: love again.
It's simple, isn't it? But let me say it: love is one of the hardest attributes of God to understand.
Why love is hard
We are more influenced by our own culture's definition of love than the way it is developed in the Bible—we have romantic overtones of Jesus' love for us.
This distorted view of God's love can diminish God's other attributes, such as His holiness. For example, some wrongly and speciously say, 'If God is love then He can't be a God that judges, demands justice or is holy.'
Love and holiness are attributes of God. They are like sides on the same coin working together. You can't choose a god with one and not the other because Jesus explains He is both.
God's holiness has an image problem in our culture. Love is a more 'sexy' (pardon the pun) attribute. To get up at church and say, 'God loves you!' (John chapter 3, verse 16) is easy. It is harder to say, 'Be holy, as God is holy' (1 Peter chapter 1, verse 16).
Both verses are in the Bible. Jesus talks about both God's love and His holiness. We can easily take the McDonald's approach—rejecting one and accepting a redefinition of the other.
What is holiness?
Holiness is both a unique attribute of God and something that we are called to display. Firstly, God's unique holiness points to His purity. He is without defect or sin. Nothing impure can be in His presence.
The angels in Revelation proclaim 'holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.' During this heavenly worship service they choose to focus on His holiness rather than say 'love, love, love is the Lord'. Holiness is important!
Holiness also means 'set apart'. In the Old Testament the Sabbath is a holy day set apart from the normal routine of work for the Lord.
In the New Testament Christians are called saints: set apart/holy for the Lord. This is both in terms of Christian identity as adopted children of God, as well as being distinct from the ethical and moral norms of the world.
For example, Peter's first letter explains that the Christian has been saved through Jesus' atoning death. As a result (1 Peter chapter 1, verse 13) Christians are to be holy—thus reflecting this amazing salvation and honouring God.
Holiness and love work together
God's holiness is the reason for His salvation plan. The result of this plan is His love that gave His Son to save us. The two attributes of God work together: both must be understood to get the full meaning.
I don't see this balanced biblical concept explained much in churches today. Songs, prayers and sermons often focus on God's love, but rarely on His holiness.
This distortion not only misrepresents the Saviour but also deprives our faith of a richer understanding of His love. We are in danger of making the Bible a 'choose your own adventure' book by creating a god that fits the bits we like most.
Here is the challenge: Read John chapter 3, verse 16 in context of ALL of chapter three. Yes, there is more to that verse than, 'For God so loved the world ...' In fact, the 'For' gives context of what this love is in relation to being born again. It also points to the end of verse 16 and verse 17—talking about the love that saves from 'perishing.'
Want to go deeper still? Read Don Carson's The difficult doctrine of the love of God -.https://www.koorong.com/search/product/the-difficult-doctrine-of-the-love-of-god/9781844744275.jhtml
Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and Pastor
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover.html