Rev. Terry Goerz,
Redeemer Lutheran Church.
1 John 4:8b tells us “God is love”.
This is one of the best known of God’s attributes. It has been “abused” now for some time by some who view this as God’s only attribute. They set aside the fact that God is also a just God who is capable of great wrath. The pages of the Old Testament are full of examples of God visiting His wrath on His beloved people when they strayed from the path He laid out for them.
Although the concept of God is love has been abused, it does not change the truth of these words. Love is not just an emotion, but it demonstrates itself in actions.
This is how God demonstrates His love: “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:8]
Or put even more famously, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” [John 3:16]
This is the unique love of God. Where does it come from? It has nothing to do with the qualities of the person who is loved. It simply comes from God Himself. It is integral to His nature, who and what He is “God is love”.
And it was manifested in Jesus, who laid down His life for us, for you. He died for you. Actually, He died in your place to justify you, or to make you right with God, and to reconcile you, or to make you the friend of God while you were still God’s enemy.
Yes we were enemies, but because of the self-sacrificing love of Christ, we are made friends, indeed, even the adopted children of our Heavenly Father.
We are not capable of the love God has for us. Our sinful nature continually gets in the way. Jesus described the epitome of our human capability in love.
“Greater love has no one than this, that He lay down His life for his friends.” [John 15: 13]
It has been known, in history as well as legend, that someone will lay down their life for another. There is only one thing which will lead a person to do such a thing, and that is love. Christ rightly sees this as the ultimate expression of love for us humans. Parents know it well. So do many military members, police, firefighters, and heroes in general.
Paul also shares a similar concept.
“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.” [Romans 5: 7]
Yes, we may be willing to die for our friends and possibly for a good and righteous man, but who would lay down his life for his enemies? This demonstrates how much more loving is our heavenly Father. God has given the one costly thing – His Son, His only Son, to give His life for us, and to give us the gift of life. It is the greatest love expressed through the greatest risk, the only and ultimate sacrifice of God for a love that will endure forever.
What about us today? How it is for those who are justified by Jesus in the sight of God? If God is the original lover, He is not expected to be the final one. Just as His creativity goes on through nature, so His love goes on through His people, His just ones.
“We love because He first loved us.” [1 John.4: 19]
The impetus of God’s love does not stop with the individual recipient, but cascades on. It is the same unique quality of love, the ability to love even the unlovable. There is the power of the Holy Spirit in those re-created in Christ Jesus.
So also that ability to love also comes not from ourselves. As we grow as Christians, as we are sanctified by the love of Christ, we are transformed to become more and more like Him.
As we reach out in love to those around us in the many charitable acts available for us it is not our natural self, rather it is the love of Christ in us, the Holy Spirit, transforming our nature.
While in this age we will never match the incompressible love that God had demonstrated to us, when we see ourselves reaching out in love, we should pause and thank God that His love is working through us.