For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (ESV)So many Christians, both genuine and nominal, cherish this beautiful verse as assurance of the Lord's grace and gentle favor. Nominal Christians, sadly, derive nothing but a false sense of security as they misconstrue this verse into a promise of universal salvation. They mistakenly understand "love" in terms of a feel-good sentimentalism that passively tolerates all manner of attitudes and behaviors.
John and I once interviewed a woman for a PCA position who enthusiastically told us, "God is my Buddy." During the brief time she worked for us, we could plainly see that her concept of God had absolutely no resemblance to biblical Christianity. Her interpretation of God made no moral demands on her, but smiled indulgently as she ignored His commandments and lived life on her own terms. She believed God's love for her protected her from His disapproval.
Most people, if they acknowledge God at all, tend to see God in similar ways. His love, they reason, trumps His holiness, giving them license to adjust His Word to their personal preferences.
I actually like the idea that the Lord could shower His love on me without that love requiring me to repent and conform to His holiness. Such love would make like easier and a great deal more pleasureable, and I certainly wouldn't object to more ease and pleasure!
But such a shallow, insipid "love" would also seriously compromise God's holiness, making Him unworthy of our adoration. Could we honestly love, let alone respect and worship, a god who related to us as little else than a cosmic Buddy? And would His lowered standards and allowances for sin even qualify as real love? I don't see how it possibly could.
Jesus came, and indeed shed His blood on the cross, as the ultimate expression of God's love for man. His love deserves to be proclaimed and celebrated! In doing so, however, we can't distort His love at the expense of His other qualities...particularly His holiness. Quite the contrary, we can marvel at the wonderful and inexplicable truth that a holy God, for reasons that none of us can ever hope to understand, loves us.