God is love, yet God is also holy and just. The paradox of those two realities is that, although God would prefer to save everyone, God cannot be in the presence of iniquity, therefore unrepentant sinners must be condemned to hell.
I heard this so many times growing up, this idea that God’s nature conflicted with itself and, although it didn’t make sense to us, that we ought to blindly trust that this paradoxical nature was, in fact, goodness.
But after 30+ years of exploring my faith, of wrestling with scripture and reason and the tradition of Christianity alongside my own experience of it, after earning a Master’s Degree in Christian theology, I believe this concept of the paradoxical nature of God is wrong.
God’s nature is love, and nothing less. God is love, not only descriptively as if we were painting the picture of God’s hair color or penchant for telling jokes, but definitionally. It is through God, and specifically through Jesus, that we know what love is. God is complete in love, and love is complete in God.
Holiness and justice are not equal characteristics that conflict with God’s love; there is no paradox to be reconciled here. Holiness and justice are outflows of God’s nature, which is to say that they are outflows of God’s love.
Because God is love, God is holy.
Because God is love, God is just.
We can only understand God’s holiness and justice when we consider them through the lens of God’s love. Through that lens, we see that God’s holiness never separates us from God, but draws us deeper into connection with God in spite of our sinfulness. Through that lens, we see that God’s justice does not condemn us, but delivers us into the fullness of who God created us to be.
God is love, and therefore God is holy and just. The rich beauty of this reality is that, because God loves everyone, God reaches out to us, connects with us, and refuses to allow us to suffer eternal torment.