Over the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking, reading and writing about theology. The nature of God, the person and work of Jesus, the cross, the atonement, salvation, scripture, prayer, suffering… all these and more are topics I’ve pondered and wrestled with. And no doubt I’ll continue to do so.
All my reflecting, wrestling and theologising has led me to also wonder what’s the point of it all. What’s at the top of this theological mountain I’m trying to climb?
As I’ve thought about this question, I’ve realised I already know the answer. And, despite the many theological rabbit trails down which one may wander, it’s really very simple.
All of my thinking, reading and studying to date has led me to conclude that this is the pinnacle of Christian theology:
“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7–8)
We could boil it down even further: God is Love, so love one another. That’s it. When we ascend the theological Everest, this is what we find at the summit.
There is, of course, a very serious implication for all those who, like me, have a passion for theology. You can do all the theological reading, studying and wrestling in the world; if, in the end, it doesn’t result in you being more loving toward your fellow human beings, regardless of their colour, creed, sexual orientation, political affiliation or anything else, it’s not worth a hill of beans.
There’s a flip side, too: you can know diddly squat about theology, or even explicitly about God, and yet be much more godly than a theologian who can tell you about God till the cows come home but who has forgotten the most important thing, which is to live a life of love.
So what’s the point of theology?
I can think of at least two reasons why I have no intention of laying down my theological pursuits. The first is, quite simply, that I enjoy theology immensely: it fascinates and energises me. And we all need pursuits that fascinate and energise us.
The second reason I will continue to study theology is this: I’m convinced that what we believe has a very great influence on how we live. This is true of all our beliefs, I think; and how much more true, then, of our beliefs about God, who is the ultimate ground and baseline of every other one of our beliefs and convictions?
All of this is, of course, a mighty challenge, because I know how unloving I can be. But I believe that God is good and radically, inexhaustibly, limitlessly loving; and as I continue to contemplate what that means, I trust that He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6).
So, my friends, let us theologise together, and enjoy it. But as we do so, let’s keep the main thing the main thing: let’s love one another.
[Image: Sam Ferrara]