Archives For If God is Love

The Theology Of Love….

March 30, 2014

2014-03-06_12-42-52A theology of love begins with the assumption that all people are God’s cherished children and deserving of love. “We love because he first loved us. Those who say ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers and sisters, are liars, for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:19–20). Jesus demonstrated his love for the outcasts, those many considered unlovable. Regrettably, many Christians have been unwilling to adopt the ethic of Jesus—a theology of inclusion, acceptance, and love. We’ve been unwilling to love and accept our enemies. We haven’t even been excited about loving our neighbor.

Gulley, Philip; Mulholland, James (2009-10-13). If God Is Love —  HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

I must admit that this book “If God Is Love” is one of my top ten favorite books I have ever read. It was the first book by Philip Gulley I had read but it would certainly not be the last. When I read this book in 2005 there was no such thing as Amazon Kindle where I could tag a quote. Instead the physical book has many bent pages and starred paragraphs. I even subsequently bought the kindle version so I could more easily use quotes in my blogs.

If you really want to understand the magnitude of the love of God I would highly advise you to pick up a copy.

If God Is Love… (Part1)

October 21, 2012

I am going to start a series of posts around quotes from some of the many books I have read. One of the favorites is the book “If God is Love” by Philip Gulley. Here is the quote for today:

When Jesus redefined kinship, he was challenging their exclusive circle by declaring that anyone in any place who did the will of God regardless of social standing or religious affiliation, was his brother or sister.  Kinship is not a matter of racial, religious, or cultural conformity. It was the by-product of a commitment of the will of God — to love and care for all. Continue Reading…

This is the last installment for the review of the book “If God Is Love” that I brought over from my other blog.  This book was a major factor in forming my current view of the Church of Christ.

<<<<<<< Post from August 16, 2011 >>>>>>>>

This is a continuation of my discussions of the book entitled “When God Is Love” by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland. Here is the quote for today:

Working to make the world a more gracious place wasn’t a priority in the churches of my childhood. Some of this negligence was a result of apolcalyptic interpretations in which the world was doomed and damned anyway. One man insisted we shouldn’t work for peace in the Middle East because we were simply postponing Armageddon and the return of Christ. However, the primary reason the church didn’t have time to change the world was because we expended so much energy trying to save souls. We’d work for weeks on revivals, evangelism programs, mission support, and the like. We didn’t have time for soup kitchens, visiting prisoners, or working with the homeless — unless of course, we could figure out a way to work in an altar call.

When I became convinced of God’s intention to save every person, my perspective on the purpose of life changed. Salvation became a lifelong adventure in which God is gently and patiently drawing us away from self-absorption and toward authentic relationship with God and one another. The point of life was no longer to get saved or to save others. The purpose of life was to live graciously. Freed of personal anxiety about God’s acceptance and no longer obsessed with creating others in my own image, I was able to focus on what it means to be rather than do.

Working to make the world a more gracious place is still not much of a priority in today’s church. While I am yet to be fully in the camp that God will in his own way bring all souls to him, I am fully on board that much of the current church approach to those outside the faith is misguided. When we quit looking at others as projects to be converted and instead as fellow human being to be loved our whole approach to them changes. They become fellow children of God and not heathens to be saved.  The way we point others to Christ is through our actions and not our words or even necessarily those words found in our ancient books.

Lets finish up with a follow up quote on this subject.

Saving souls isn’t about altar calls, but about responding graciously to those we encounter in our daily lives. Being gracious is not about inviting others to our church, but about living an inviting life — one both attractive and winsome. The purpose of life isn’t to create more Christians , but “to let our lights shine before others, so they will see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven” Matthew 5:16

A few posts ago, and several other times on this blog, I have stated that we all at some time, and often many times, question what is our purpose in life. Why did God create us. I think Mr. Gulley and Mr. Mulholland have got it right in that regard. We are to be like the Son and let our lights shine in order to point others to Christ. Altar calls and such just don’t hack it. They never have and they never will.

If God is Love… Part 3

March 18, 2012

This is the third of five posts I made on the book If God is Love by Philip Gulley. I have slightly modified it from when it was written over at RedLetterLiving last July.

This is a continuation of my expose of the book by Philip Gulley entitled If God Is Love. In this post he talks about Dualistic Theologies.

Dualistic theologies reduce the questions of life to one: Are you saved? Nothing else matters. The purpose of life it to answer that single question. Of course, simply saying “yes” is not enough. You confirm your salvation by accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, getting baptized, and receiving the Holy Spirit. Until you have done these things, your life has no meaning.

When salvation is defined so narrowly, it too easily becomes a status rather than a process. It becomes a contractual agreement between an individual and God….  Too often, God’s desire to transform us into mature, responsible, and gracious people was obscured. When religion factored in the fragility of life and the threat of eternal damnation, the product (a spot in heaven) rather than the process (becoming an authentic person) became the priority.

Growing up, I was asked repeatedly, “If you were to die tonight, where would you spend eternity?” I was never asked, “If you live tomorrow, what kind of life will it be?”

Some call this supposed contract between you and God fire insurance. We sign the papers and then put it on the shelf until it is needed. That is NOT what being a follower of Jesus Christ means to me nor should it to anyone else. This is another instance where I believe men have fashioned a god who pleases them; not the other way around. Yes it is nice to I know where I will be spending eternity but equally important, if not more so for our times,  is how I will live my life tomorrow and all the tomorrows I have left. If they do not reflect God’s love then is the fire insurance policy still valid? I have deep reservations about the answer to that one.

This is the second post of five about the book by Philip Gulley entitled If God is Love. Like the first installment last Sunday this one was also pulled from one of my other blogs at RedLetterLiving.net  I made a few minor modifications to the original post.

Post from RedLetterLiving March 2009

This is a continuation of my collection of snippets from the book by Philip Gulley entitled If God is Love.

The Psalmists boats, “Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with perfect hate. I count them my enemies” (Psalm 139:21-22). Hatred, when directed at those we have judged wicked, becomes a sign of religious devotion rather than a grievous sin. The enemy is not loved, but destroyed, not prayed for, but preyed upon.

We can protest religious hatred and violence are sins of the past, but to do so we must ignore current Christian visions of the future. How do we explain the tremendous popularity of the “Left Behind” series of books? These books, which have sold millions of copies have spawned two movies, portray a future in which Evangelical Christians are saved while everyone else is destroyed. They proclaim a Jesus with a sword in hand atop a charging steed, initiating a violent end.

Our violent religious past and expectations of a wrathful future impinge on Christian behavior today. David Beneke, a leader in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, discovered this reality shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks. He was suspended for eighteen months from his duties and required to defend himself before a variety of denominational panels. His sin was not something as radical as believing in the salvation of all people. His crime was joining with Muslim, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, and Sikh religious leaders in a prayer service at Yankee Stadium. He was accused of praying with “heathens”. He said “This ordeal reveals the hard side of Christianity”.

In fairness, similar stories abound in other religious traditions. This arrogant exclusivity plagues all the great religions. Adherents of each faith hate the “other” — Christians hate heathens; Muslims hate infidels; Jews hate Gentiles. For many, religion is how we decide who to love and who to hate.

As I have said many times Jesus melted down the Old Testament laws into just two: Love God and Love your fellow man. Hate was not in this mix. Why do so many current day religious institutions base so much of their practices on hate? Maybe hate is too strong a word for the practices of current Christian denomination but then again maybe it is not. One thing I love about reading Philip Gulley is that he doesn’t pull any punches. Mr. Gulley certainly didn’t pull any punches in this example. :)

The book review post I want to bring over from my other blog at RedLetterLiving.net  is one that had a profound effect on me during my three year search into current Christian organizations. In fact this book review spanned over five posts. (I haven’t decided yet whether to bring all five here or not). Phillip Gulley was one of my first encounters with the Society of Friends, otherwise know as Quakers. It would definitely spur much more reading about this group of Christians.

Here is a slightly edited version of the March 2009 post

Today I am going to talk a little about a book entitled “If God is Love – Rediscovering Grace in an Ungracious World” by Phillip Gulley and James Mulholland. I must admit up front that I am somewhat fascinated by the Quaker religion of which both of the authors are ministers. Although one of them came through Baptist and Methodists to get there. I greatly respect the position the Quakers have taken on non-violence going all the way back to the Revolutionary war. This is a very readable book on a very important topic.

There has been an ongoing debate throughout Christianity’s history on the correct balance between the all powerful and sometime vengeful God and the God of agape Love. Just what the correct balance of this is somewhat attuned to the corresponding debate between law and gospel. Both are needed but how much of each is appropriate for a well rounded Christian? I must admit that this book is full of God’s love and has little of God’s power in it. I must also admit that I lean in that direction also but not to the extent of the authors.

The following is, in my opinion, one of the most striking quotes from the book:

The theology of love begins with the assumption that all people are God’s cherished children and deserving of love. “We love because he first loved us. Those who say ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers and sisters, are liars, for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen” 1 John 4:19-20. Jesus demonstrated his love for the outcasts, those many considered unloveable. Regrettably, many Christians have been unwilling to adopt the ethic of Jesus — a theology of inclusion, acceptance, and love. We’ve been unwilling to love and accept our enemies. We haven’t even been excited about loving our neighbor.


This quote I believe sums up the Quaker stand on non-violence. They have taken quite a bit of abuse during all our wars because of this stand. Another memorable quote is as below:

God has no grandchildren. My children cannot inherit my faith. I can’t save them. Each of us is on a journey. My role as a parent is not to convert my children, but to live a life consistent with my experience of God’s radical love and trust that such a life will attract them.

I don’t know that I have ever seen such a powerful pronouncement of Christian parenting before. The old saying that parents have been spouting for eons is “don’t do what I do, do what I say”. I know I got my dose of that as a child. It didn’t work on me and probably didn’t work for most of you. Our parents, like all Christians must show the love of the Lord in their actions as well as their words. One does not work without the other.  Finally the last quote I want to present is:

Share everything with your brother. Do not say, ‘It is private property.’” This isn’t the rhetoric of the Communist Manifesto or the Mother Earth Catalog. This is a line from the Didache, an early Christian document used to prepare novices for baptism. The Didache was such a respected teaching that it was nearly included in the biblical canon. This line may have been its undoing. Religion has long resisted the command to be universally concerned, especially when this concern comes with a price tag.

I understand this tendency. Whenever someone asks me to respond to a need, I have to overcome a long litany of mental excuses. I don’t know enough about the persons’ situation to give wisely. He or she might not use the money appropriately. I’m already giving to other causes. These may all be legitimate considerations, but I sense my deeper motivation — I want a rationale for keeping my money. I don’t’ like Jesus’ command to “Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you (Matthew 5:42)

I was struck by so many of these types of dialogs in the book. They definitely made me think about how I am living out my life.  According to what I have read elsewhere the main reason that the Didache document as quoted above was not included was that the emperor Constantine, who oversaw the compilation of our first Bible, did not consider it supportive enough of the State so he vetoed its inclusion in the final version.

I highly recommend this book to any who is willing to struggle with these types of issues. No one ever said (or should have said) living your life by the words of Jesus Christ is easy! Indeed, it should be and is quite difficult.