I've been thinking about love lately. Not the romantic kind of love, but the all-encompassing love of a lifestyle lived for Christ. I've been wondering, in this world which glorifies love, what love really means. Is it just a feeling? Is it expressed in roses and hugs, kisses and midnight conversations? Can it be destroyed by hate, just as terrorists destroyed some of the city of love, Paris, last week?
Basically, what is love?
And as I've read the Bible the past few weeks, I've discovered something freeing and wonderful: God is love. And His Kingdom is not just a city of love, but a kingdom of love that can never fade away.
These facts seem so basic, so elementary. Duh, God is love; everyone loves to talk about that. But the reality of this love gets lost in translation, and we can miss the crucial elements of God's kingdom of love. We can overlook the simplicity of God's love and how we should respond to it. We get caught up with the whirlwinds of time and the struggle of life that we forget the center of our existence and the starting point of the circle of life.
And so I'm going to remind you of some of the basic truths of God's love. You've probably heard these truths put more elegantly than I will write them, and many of these things seem so simple. But I believe that we all need to remember the foundation of love upon which we stand. So, let me share this infographic with you to illustrate what I've been thinking about:
First, God is love.
Stop. Stop right now and think about that this really means. It doesn't just mean that God loves. It doesn't mean that God is soft and cuddly. It doesn't mean that God always acts how we think a loving being should act. It means that God is the definition of love, the determining factor of love, and the measuring stick of love. If something is in agreement with God, it is love. And if something is in disagreement with God, it is not love.
1 John talks a lot about God's love and our response to it, and I will refer to many verses from this book. It's not very long, so I recommend reading through it this week and seeing the big picture that I'm trying to write about in John's words. Anyway, in 1 John 4:16, John writes: "God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them."
Next, God loves us.
We all know the words of John 3:16, but they are true! God, the starting point of love, the maker of all creation, and the holy King ruling over all love us! "This is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us..." (1 John 4:10). God didn't have to love us. He didn't have to extend His character of love into our lives, BUT HE did.
And this is the signature truth of Christianity. In no other religions does God begin the love. Others believe that people must earn God's love. Those who killed hundreds in Paris believed that they would then earn God's love. They believed that they would first love God, and the God might love them. And so they did whatever it took.
Is that love?
I don't think so. It is rather sin living in us that perverts God's true love into something ugly and despicable.
God hates sin.
This is the part many people like to skip over, but I cannot ignore it. In Sunday School this morning, the teacher pointed out that to truly love, you must hate. To truly love the people of Paris right now, we must hate the destructive sin of terrorism. To truly love my cat Patches, I must hate the curse of injury which inflicted a torn ACL on her little kitty life. To love one thing we must hate anything that tries to destroy our love.
And so God, being the definition of love, if also the definition of wrath. For God to truly love us, He must hate sin, which kills us. And so, God's wrath and just condemnation of sin is not separate from His love, but an extension of it. In fact, He hates sin so much that He cannot be in the presence of it, which then introduces a problem, because we chose sin and cover ourselves with it from the inside out, making ourselves distant from the love of God. But this didn't change God's love for us.
So Jesus Came.
"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him." (1 John 4:9)
"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us." (1 John 3:16)
"See what great love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" (1 John 3:1)
Enough said. I really can't top John's words here that describe how God's love for us and hate for sin met on the cross and paved a new way: a way of grace. For grace is the meeting point of love and wrath. It is the sacred place where God's wrath for our sin poured upon Christ, leaving His love to shower us with undeserved life!
And this grace changes everything! (cough, cough, Grace in Everything.)
It is bigger than any terrorist.
It is better than any relationship.
It is stronger than any temptation.
I didn't realize that I had so much to say on this simple topic, but that illustrates how magnificent is the basic love of God! These rediscoveries as well as the ones that I will disclose in part two (and possibly three) cleared up the direction I need to go in life. The simple truth of love changed how I thought about God, myself, and others. I hope and pray that you better understand the foundation upon which we stand, but I pray for more than understanding but for greater love for God!
Please comment below what is on your mind lately! And how do you think about God's love? I would love to hear any illustrations that you've found helpful! Also, let us continue to point to the only cure for the curse of sin that destroys so much: God and His love.
God's grace be with you,