I used to hear a lot of girls say, “Ooh, I’m so in LOVE with God!”
It always bothered me…but I couldn’t really put my finger on it. For some reason I just had a very hard time believing that girls would say that the exact same way I heard other girls talk about their new boyfriend.
I loved God. But, it didn’t make me react like that. I didn’t have that tone to my voice that made it sound like I had some romantic relationship.
I think that romantic love stuff sells the love of God short of what it really is. Most people who “fall in love” eventually “fall out of love.” They “fall in love” with certain aspects of that person, and then they “fall out of love” when they find aspects they don’t like or can’t deal with.
This kind of love is still about finding a reason to love someone, rather than the kind Jesus demonstrated.
Sure, it makes sense; God is so perfect, what’s not to love about Him? But to think that’s the same unconditional and raw love that He demonstrates toward us and that Jesus demonstrated, is a serious understatement.
Why is this important? Because the way we love people reflects how we believe God loves us. So if we believe God has a hard time loving us because we mess up, then we’ll also have a hard time demonstrating unconditional love towards people when they mess up.
God’s kind of love is much different.
He IS love. (1 John 4:8)
It’s who He is. And He’s unchanging.
That’s why even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). He loved us even when we didn’t love Him. He laid down His life for people who crucified Him and said, “Father, forgive them.” He treated them better than they deserved. He was able to forgive the worst offense.
It was the father who gave the lost son the best robe, a ring, and sandals on his feet, even when he deserved punishment.
It was the forgiving King who cleared all the debts of the servant.
It was Jesus who forgave and healed the paralytic – he didn’t deserve it!
It doesn’t make sense in our culture today….
How can we love someone so unlovable? How can we love someone who doesn’t deserve it? How can we love our enemies like Jesus said? How can we forgive someone that has hurt us intentionally?
It feels impossible because we don’t understand what kind of love this is. We’ve been raised with this carnal love that changes based on whether someone deserves it or not. Worse yet, we secretly believe that God sees us the same way.
We believe that God is “far away” if we sin, God hides from us if we do something bad to “punish” us. We believe that God can’t bless us if we have sin in our life; we’re taught that God withholds it to “teach us a lesson.”
This is not God’s heart. He isn’t affected by our failures. He doesn’t treat us any different based on our performance. He’s doesn’t have criteria we need to follow or a list of requirements we need to fulfill. He treats us according to His love towards us, not according to our love for Him – our behavior doesn’t sway Him.
Because He IS love.
He will never treat us otherwise, because we cannot change who He is. That’s why grace is called unmerited favor. It’s favor towards us that we never deserved.
That means your actions can’t earn it, or disqualify you from it.
That’s why in the light of sin, God gives grace (Rom 5:20). He constantly keeps no record of wrong (1 Cor 13:5), He covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8), He remembers sin no more (Heb 8:12 & 10:17), and He doesn’t count sins against people (2 Cor 5:19).
He wants reconciliation (2 Cor 5:19). The father wanted to have restored relationship with his son (Luke 15:21-23).
Why was he able to simply disregard offenses?
Because He is love. And love gives grace.
That’s why “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).
That’s why it says, “for God so loved the world that He GAVE His Son” (John 3:16).
For God so loved, He gave grace to an undeserving world – it came in the form of His Son!
And that’s why God never stops giving grace toward us – even in our sin (Rom 5:20). He so loves that He extends grace to people who don’t deserve it. In fact, He loves those who don’t deserve love.
Because He IS love.
And when we understand His grace toward us, it shouldn’t make us want to take advantage of grace, but instead it should change how we see (Rom 2:4), and as a result, keep us from wanting to abuse it (Rom 6:1-15).
Being Like Your Dad
When you realize how He loves, that becomes the reason why YOU love (1 John 4:19).
You’ll stop finding reasons to love people because you realize God didn’t find a reason with you.
You’ll stop trying to love people who don’t deserve it because you realize God didn’t try to love you.
You’ll stop loving people because they deserve love, and you’ll start loving because it’s the love of God that has taken root in you. You’ll love people because you’ve become part of the Vine. You’ll bear the fruit of the love of God because you abide in His love (John 15:9).
“Loving people” is no longer a spiritual chore that God “commanded” you to do, or something your pastor drilled you on how “you need to ‘love your neighbor’”, or “you need to forgive this person.” Now, you love people because you are love.
You no longer need to try to bear the fruit of love. You just understand that the love God has expressed toward you is too good to keep to yourself, so you want to freely give to everyone what you’ve freely received.
You’ll understand that you’ve been made one spirit with Him (1 Cor 6:17), and His nature has become YOUR nature. You’ll understand that God’s kind of love has become a part of your identity.
What’s the Point?
The whole point of the Christian life is to demonstrate love to the world the same way God has demonstrated love toward us.
It’s laying yourself (your life) down to serve, to benefit, to build, to add value to someone else’s life…freely. (John 15:13; 1 John 3:16)
It’s showing people that they are worth our time, they are worth our attention, and they are worth our care.
They can see in your eyes that it’s real, raw love, and not some hyped up fluffy love with common clichés. It’s a love that gives regardless of what is deserved or expected.
It’s a love that expects nothing in return. It’s a love that does not change based on the response of others; that isn’t offended by first impressions, reputations, or accusations.
That’s why I’ve never liked the term “full-time ministry.” We all are full-time re-presenters of God’s audacious, unchanging, furious love.
Your love for people is paralleled by your understanding of God’s love toward you.
The “ministry” is to love as He loved.
That is the distinguishing mark of the believer.
“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Love is in it for what it can give, not what it can get.
Love isn’t looking for a “thank you”; it isn’t looking for recognition or appreciation (though, it won’t turn it down).
Love is a no-strings attached, no conditions, no hidden catches, “I want to help you and serve you” way of thinking.
Love doesn’t feel required to give, love is compelled to give; it’s not a have to, it’s a get to.
Love gets to express grace. Gets to express kindness to those who don’t deserve it. Gets to be patient… It’s supposed to be a privilege, not a chore.
The Good Samaritan is the perfect parable.
Jesus was a perfect model.
Jesus perfectly represented the Father.
Jesus sent us to re-present Himself.
We are to be examples of what love looks like and how love treats people .
We are to be examples of what it means to be Christ-like, and how He would treat people.
All these failed marriages? They are missing love.
Broken relationships? They are missing love.
The reputation of the church today? It’s missing love.
The hurt, the offense, the unforgiveness, the hate, the envy, the jealousy, the anger, the bitterness, the insecurity, the brokenness, and all the grudges people hold against each other are a result of not understanding love and therefore, not understanding how to love.
They justify it all by saying “look at what they did,” or “look at what happened to me,” because they do not understand how God has loved them.
God loves because that’s who He is! He forgives, keeps no record of wrong, trusts, and covers a multitude of sins because that’s who He is!
YOU ought to love because that’s who you’ve become! You’ve been grafted into the Vine (John 15), you are a partaker of the Divine Nature (2 Peter 1:3-4)!
Friends, this is the great call. This is why Paul prayed that we would be “rooted and grounded in LOVE” (Eph 3:17).
When we understand God’s perfect love toward us, we’ll no longer have any fear and we’ll boldly approach Him (1 John 4:18; Heb 4:16).
When we learn to model that same perfect love to the world, the world will no longer have any fear in coming to us, hungry to know and experience the love we’ve been given.
Let’s grow and mature in the love that Jesus demonstrated to sinners and tax-collectors. Not this fluffy, romantic love that is erratic, unpredictable, and unstable. We’re doing everyone a great disservice by “dumbing down” God’s love to some cliché and a “nice feeling.”
This love is bold, this love is a rock, this love results in compassion, this love brings action (1 John 3:18). It’s what compelled Jesus to heal the broken, free the oppressed, help those in need, strengthen the weak, encourage the disheartened, and it’s what should compel us to do the same for those around us.
This love “has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom 5:5)
By this love “all will know you are my disciples” (John 13:35)
What love is this?
God’s kind of love.