The love of God. Now this is an attribute that seems so huge and beyond me that I can barely get my mind around it. For some reason, particularly in our culture, love has taken on an unbelievably syrupy, insipid, touchy-feely, emotional meaning.
That is NOT what the love of GOD is all about…at all! It is acting for the benefit of the one loved, often at the expense of the lover.
I was reading J.I.Packer and this is what he said regarding the love of GOD.
St. John’s twice-repeated statement, ‘God is love’ (I John 4:8, 16), is one of the most tremendous utterances in the Bible–also one of the most misunderstood….
To know God’s love is indeed heaven on earth (as noted prior to vs. 16). And the New Testament sets forth this knowledge, not as the privilege of a favored few, but as a normal part of ordinary Christian experience, something to which only the spiritually unhealthy or malformed will be strangers. When Paul says, ‘the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us’ (Romans 5:5), he means, not love for God, as Augustine thought, but knowledge of God’s love for us.
He goes on to talk about the meanings of the words in Greek. Then says…the rendering of the NEB, ‘God’s love has flooded our inmost heart.’ is more consistent with the actual meaning of the verb. Paul is not talking of faint and fitful impressions, but of deep and overwhelming ones. He goes on to say that this tense is one that indicates a past action with continuing effects. It is not just a one time event.
Can you imagine the sense of being aware of the love of GOD flooding our hearts? That this would be the norm for each Christian? That it wouldn’t be some emotional high that hit us occasionally, but rather a deep and abiding sense that GOD loves us and that awareness would so overtake our hearts that we would have a sense of stability and acceptance into the Family, at the very least!
It is interesting that he compares those who don’t have this awareness to spiritually unhealthy or deformed Christians. How sad! What a way for us to encourage each other. NO! I”m not suggesting we tell each other that we’re deformed Christians if we have a bad day and don’t feel God’s love, but it does seem to be an indicator, doesn’t it? It is something to think about.
I was also reading Wayne Grudem’s SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. I have enjoyed reading it. He writes out all the Bible verses so I don’t have to stop and look them up. Yes, I can be that lazy! I can also be that forgetful and need to backtrack over what I read. It reinforces the Bible passage and the frequent encouragement of Scripture.
Regarding the love of GOD, He says, God’s love means that God eternally gives of Himself to others. From the perspective of a mother, the thought of eternally giving of yourself can sound like forever! 🙂 It often feels that way too doesn’t it? That isn’t a burden to GOD. It is a character trait of His. Imagine?!
God’s attribute of love was part of Him before creation and was active among the Trinity. It is described in John 3:35 and John 14:31 among other places. That same trait seen among the Trinity is also expressed to mankind, particularly sinful people. One great scripture that speaks to this is I John 4:10. Galatians 2:20 is another great one too. It is easy to find many other passages that speak to this one trait: that of a GOD who loves in a way that is best for the one loved, even if and in our cases, when we don’t deserve it!
There is also a mutuality to this in our relationship to GOD. Once we have responded to GOD’s redemptive call on our lives, we can stand before Him dressed in Christ’s righteousness not the filthy rags of our own “righteousness”. We have been forgiven to the very core by the One who loved us while we were still sinners. His love was not based on anything we could do to deserve it. Fortunately for us! It was based on His love for us!
The other aspect to the love of GOD is that it is something that as His child, I will be growing into. I will be learning to love unlovely people: whether they are rich or poor; clean or dirty; positive or negative; difficult to endure or joyfully pleasant to be around. There are people who are unlovely in all those categories and more!
I can assure you that if you are carefully avoiding them, GOD will find a way to put them in your life somewhere! That is what being a Christian is all about. It is about learning to love people I don’t naturally like…at least not always the first time I meet them!
How do I know if I love GOD? I am loving His people. I am learning to live joyfully and graciously with the difficult people in my life whether Christian or not. It is not a matter of an emotional feeling. It is a matter of living by faith; of moving toward people in relationship rather than away from them in avoidance; it is a matter of learning to forgive others in the way I have been forgiven.
That often means a larger understanding of my sinfulness and its effect on my life. But it also means a realization of the greatness of God’s forgiveness as well. Once I am aware of His forgiveness of me, and the greatness of it’s extent, I am more easily able to forgive others. I’m not saying the process is always simple and easy, but to the degree I realize how much I have been forgiven, to that degree, I can extend grace and forgiveness to others around me. I say that as a recovering self-righteous “Pharisee”, not as someone who has never had to deal with this problem.
- How is it helpful for you to think of GOD’s love as part of a unit woven in with the other attributes we have talked about so far? i.e. the love of GOD woven together with His being infinite, eternal and unchangeable in His love, wisdom, knowledge, etc.
- How has your view of the love of GOD been expanded as you think of Him and His personality?
- How has it been helpful to you as you think in terms of showing the Love of GOD to people around you?