I was having a theological conversation with a reformed friend of mine a few months ago and, like I will often do, I brought up the phrase found in 1 Jn. 4:7, 16, "God is love." He responded the way many respond to this verse by saying that God isn't just love, but is also holy. He added that we have to realize that "God is complex and that there are multiple levels and aspects of His will and character." Thus, "as a person is not easily boiled down into one all-encompassing emotion or state of mind all the time," so we should not boil the transcendent God down to one all-encompassing characteristic
The problem is that Scripture defines God with the word love. "God is just," is a descriptive statement that uses an adjective. All of God's character is not presented in this statement because 'just' is just one adjective. "God is love," on the other hand, is a descriptive statement that uses a noun. The point here is that God = love. John says this to emphasize that God can be "boiled down" to one all-encompassing characteristic: love. It's not that there are "multiple levels and aspects" of God that are seemingly paradoxical, but that every level and aspect of God can be understood through the lens of love. This concept is difficult for many, like D.A. Carson, the author of The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, but if you have a theology in which the love of God is difficult, you need to re-evaluate, because this God is defined by love.
Larry Hart notes that love is not the only noun said to be equal to God. He brings up the statement, "God is light" (1 Jn. 1:5) to say that God is also holy.(1) God's justice and wrath are then thrown under the "God is holy" section. This is a flawed understanding. Hart, my reformed friend, and many others assume that God's holiness somehow balances out his love with all of his qualities that are less loving. I can't remember who I read this argument from, but I remember reading a theology book in which the author said something like this: "Where God's love would disregard man's actions and have mercy on all and save all, God's justice recognizes the need for judgment. And where God's justice would abandon all and send them to hell, God's love comes in with a desire for mercy and an offer of salvation."
Similarly, when I posted my blog about universal reconciliation (here), including my argument that God is love and love never fails, a friend of mine said, "Yes, God is love, but he is also just"--as if, the 'love' part of God purposes to save everyone, but the 'just' part of God balances him out. This creates a conflict within God's nature that can be avoided if we join John in his scandalous claim that God actually is love! That means his holiness and justice are defined by his love. His wrath is defined by his love. His will is defined by his love. His complexity is defined by his love. His followers should be defined by his love (Jn. 12:35). All of his characteristics are in harmony with and defined by his love.
(1) Larry D. Hart, Truth Aflame, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 86.