“God is Love BUT …” Brad Jersak
“Everything before the word ‘BUT’ is horse sh*t.”
– Game of Thrones
I’ve heard this statement elsewhere as “Nothing someone says before the word ‘but’ really counts,” especially when an affirmation of love is immediately followed by its negations. The aphorism is loaded with wisdom and experience. Even if you feel that love compels you to bring a word of critique or correction, if you use love as your opening salvo to bring someone down, you’ll bring love down with them. It’s a big relational mistake… unless it’s a case of deliberate ‘gaslighting,’ which is abusive.
How much more so with God! Does Jesus say, “God so love the world BUT…” (John 3:16). Did John say, “God is love BUT…” (1 John 4:16)? No. God’s love is unconditional. God loved us before we loved God (1 John 4:19). Christ died for us even when we were powerless and ungodly (Romans 5:6-8). God even reconciled us to himself while we were still hostile toward God (Romans 5:10).
So, while God’s love certainly does call us to reciprocate in love, trust, surrender, and obedience (see John 14:15 for example), that’s an “if…, therefore” rather than a “BUT,” because our failure to respond in kind doesn’t annul God’s love, grace, or forgiveness. God’s mercy endures how long? Forever! And since that is true, and no BUTS about it, of course we’re called to orient our lives toward perfect Love.
If you have been told “God loves you, BUT,” it’s possible that you’ve received a dose of spiritual abuse that we associate with “Christless religion.” Or perhaps you’ve afflicted others with your own version of “God is love BUT…” In either case, today’s cartoon by David Hayward has just the solution. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all to happy to remove whatever BUT is sabotaging your experience of the Good News that “God loves you BUT nothing.”
As one friend put it, “The only ‘but’ I care about is Ephesians 2:4 – ‘BUT GOD… who is rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us…’ God has a big but!” Amen!