How Does God Love?
We often hear people say “God loves you.” That statement may be reassuring on some level yet leaves us bewildered as to exactly what it means. The statement seems a bit vague. We may ask ourselves “How does God love me?” or “What does it mean that God loves me?” Is his love an emotional love? Does God love the same way I love my car, friend, dog or family member? Without some clarification as to what God’s love is really all about, I am pretty much left in the dark.
In our western culture there are varying ideas as to what constitutes love. There are those who may understand love to be some kind of a strong feeling, a romantic feeling perhaps, though many realize that romantic feelings can intensify or fizzle. Maybe love is about commitment. That certainly must be a necessary component of love but must there be more than simply a decision to be committed? What happens when someone falls in love and gets married, and then, later, for any number of reasons that love grows cold and the relationship ends?
Does God love you the same way your parents or friends love you? Suppose you are one of those broken-hearted or wounded individuals who were betrayed by those that should have loved and cared for you?
You may also be perplexed as to the possibility that the eternal, almighty God could love you. If he does love you, how can you know what that love really means? How does it impact you?
Over the last week we saw how the Pope’s visit to America influenced people’s perceptions of love. Love was seen as caring for the poor and underprivileged. We saw the need to identify with those who are marginalized by society. We understood that we should all be at peace with one another. Peace, harmony, and no more poverty – God loves you just the way you are.
According to Scripture, what the pope said about caring for others and the example he exhibited are vitally important, but by themselves they are inadequate. Those words and actions by themselves apart from God’s great redemptive event in Christ’s cross and resurrection can ultimately save nobody.
So, how does God love? The following passage from the Bible will make that abundantly clear. In Romans 5:8 the apostle Paul said: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Did you see that? “God shows his love,” how? Christ died for us while we were “still sinners.” God demonstrated his love through the cross of Jesus Christ.
The oft quoted verse from John’s Gospel 3:16 says: “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (HCSB). God loved the world by sending His Son to die for the sins of those who are lost in sin and death. God doesn’t love the world simply with a huge hug or a self-esteem boost. He loves through the sacrifice of His Son. Jesus said: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). In John 10:11 Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Jesus didn’t come merely to change society, though that would happen if we obeyed Christ’s commands. Jesus Christ came to raise the dead to newness of life in union with the living God.
I contend that a message of God’s love and peace apart from God’s own definition of His love is an empty promise. The apostle Paul said to the Corinthian believers: “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (2:1 – 2). Those who truly represent Christ will have Paul’s passion to proclaim the love of God as demonstrated through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ the Lord – all to the glory of God alone.
“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).