By Eric Boothe
I know that I cannot do justice to a topic such as love. It’s a topic more suited for a book than a blog. Let me say this- to not know God is to not know true love! Love does not come from some other source, only God. Not only are we missing out on being truly loved if we do not know God, but we are also not able to truly love another if we do not know God. Let me say it this way- it is impossible to love another to the capacity of God’s love without knowing God! To me this is one thing that makes Christianity so significant. Christianity is the only religion that sets forth its God as being love. The gods of other religions need to be appeased. Works are needed on our part to find favor with the gods of other religions. In Christianity, God through Jesus did the work for us as an act of the love He is. “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” (4:9).
How drastic is God’s love for us? We often are mean and inconsiderate towards people we don’t like and who rub us the wrong way. Sometimes we even find it hard to be nice to people we do like, let alone be nice to our enemies. The writer of Romans tells us, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (5:8). Two things stand out in this verse: first God has demonstrated his love for us in the death of Christ, second Christ died for sinners. The writer of Romans goes on to call sinners enemies of God. Yes that’s right, before Jesus you and I are an enemy of God. This however, does not mean that God is or was out to get you. The good news is God restored the relationship between himself and his enemies by dying for them! (5:10) God’s love is drastic enough to die for his enemies! God saves his enemies. God died for you and me. That’s a demonstration of true love. If you ever feel like no one loves you, I’m here to tell you that God loves you, and he has proven it to you by dying for you.
There is nothing we have to do to earn God’s love. He already has loved us and does love us. We only truly know how to love because God in Jesus has first loved us. John writes it this way, “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). We often get this all backwards. Think about how far from this we are in our experiences. We often only love others because of what they do for us, give us, or say to us. They provide something for us and so we say that we love them. This is not true love; it is not the love of God. We provide nothing for God and yet he loves us. We love others expecting something in return. We definitely expect to be loved back. If I am continually offering nice comments to another, I at least expect them to offer nice comments back to me. This is not how God loves. God loved us even when we spit in his face, when we mocked him, denied him and decided we didn't believe in him. God chose to die for someone who didn't love him back. We won’t even wave to or say hello to someone who spits in our face.
The love that God is and calls us to is drastic and hard to live out. In fact I would say that it is impossible. Only God can love with God-like love. That’s why love is listed as one of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. Only God can empower us to love like he does. However he still calls us to do just that. There is nothing more serious or intimidating than the charge the Apostle Paul gives husbands in Ephesians 5, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (v. 25). For those of you who are dating or thinking about dating you may think this verse does not apply to you. However, in today’s world we throw the word “love” around like it’s cheap and doesn't cost us much. We see it on TV and around us all the time. We think “I’ll tell this girl that I love her and I’ll see what I get out of the deal. It really won’t cost me anything.” But this verse tells us otherwise. If we are ready to tell someone that we love them, we ought to be ready to give ourselves up for them, especially if it’s our wife. To tell your wife or your girlfriend that you love them is serious business. It cost Jesus his life when God said he loved the world and it’s a decision that God calls us to make when we tell our wife we love them as well. The first step to being able to love our wives and girlfriends in such a way is to admit to God that we cannot do it and that we need his help in doing so.
Love is a central theme in the Bible. It is so important that Jesus tells us that all of the Bible hangs on love. “Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments”” (Matthew 22:37-40). God must be the supreme object of our love. God must be first. God is the source of love and if God is the supreme object of our love, then it is possible for us to love with the love that God is. Love is therefore, not something that we fall into or out of as our culture likes to teach us. Love is a choice we make when we put God first and with his help we love others well, even when they might not be very loving towards us. To love like God is hard work and we must do our best to learn from him on how to do it.
God proved and displayed his love for the world through his action and character. We can take similar action when we want to prove our love for another. But we must be careful that our actions are not done in vain. There is a correct way and a wrong way to give someone a box of chocolates. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13 “If I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” Paul makes it the greatest of all things that a Christian can do and all a Christian’s actions must be based on love or those actions are worthless. If you want to display the character of God and his love to another, you can practice these things, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1Corinthians 13:4-7) Practicing these characteristics of love may just brighten someones life.
The greatest example we have for love is God himself. His actions prove to us that he loves us and shows us what love looks like. The relationship God shares with himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the greatest loving relationship we have to follow. It is an eternal love and God wants to share this love and relationship with us. Jesus prayed for all believers when he prayed, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:22-23). When we are “in Christ” we experience the glory and the love of God. It’s a love unlike any imitation of love that the world can throw our way. As we spend time pursuing love, in our emotions, actions, and thoughts, know that it’s not fleeting and can be found.