It’s been said that the ‘love of God is the deepest expression of his character and Jesus Christ’s total giving of himself, shown supremely in his obedient suffering and death on the cross, reveals God’s amazing love for sinners’(Thematic Study Bible).
Love requires a relationship to blossom and mature; it cannot thrive in a vacuum. God has always been in a relationship, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit together, yet one God. God’s love is eternal; it did not begin when we appeared on the scene. God said to Israel, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah.31:3). Our love is time-limited: the seeds of our love are planted when we get to know one another. Our love is so small compared to God’s everlasting love.
Now God in his wisdom chose to create human beings who are capable of a love relationship with him and it must have broken his heart when Adam and Eve chose to disobey him. We know how it hurts when our love is either rejected or spurned; our heart aches and often that’s it, end of relationship. Could God have done that? Yes, I believe he could, but his love is strong and resilient and he keeps on loving even when his love is rejected. There may be times when we are given the strength and grace to keep on loving against the odds.
Now, if our friends knew us as God knows us, how many friends would we have, if any? God, who knew us before we were even born (Psalm 139), knows us and yet loves us. Moses tells Israel. “The Lord did not choose you and lavish his love on you because you were larger or greater than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! It was simply because the Lord loves you” (Deuteronomy7:7,8 nlt). It’s not the size of our bank balance, or our talents, job or personality, or because we live in this Parish – it’s nothing to do with that, God just loves us. He loves us and can’t help it. He loves us and does not deny it and he’s not ashamed of it. Have you ever been ashamed of loving somebody? Have we ever been ashamed of acknowledging our love for Jesus? How often have we hurt God, yet he’s never been ashamed of loving us.
Time and again, God had to lovingly discipline Israel. God’s love does not make him blind to our sin– God, the bible tells us, is a consuming fire, he loathes sin for it tears at our relationship with him.
Mum and dad cry from the depths about how they loathe drugs for stealing their child from them. The distraught wife sobs as she loathes the drink that robbed her of her husband and his love. As they weep, Jesus weeps with them.
Now, it is possible for us to believe that Jesus’ love is solely for the ‘good folk’ who attend church when, in fact, God’s love is offered to all people. “For God so loved the world” (John.3:16), we are told and the Bible also tells us that we are ALL sinners who have fallen far short of God’s set standard and glory as seen in Jesus(Romans 13:23,24). It’s not how we match up against so and so that matters, it’s how we match up to Jesus and that’s where we fail miserably.
It’s always good to give to those whom we love. God gives and gives and his love is expressed in many practical ways but, as we know, he revealed it in the most awesome way by giving the most awesome gift. Only God could ever do this and Jesus is God’s unique act of love. “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. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John.4:9,10).Jesus is the visible expression of God’s everlasting love for you, for me and for all. God put on humanity and came to us in Jesus to speak to us, to live with us and to die for us, for our sin on Calvary. ‘How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure, that He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure’ (CMP988). It hurts when a love gift is declined, doesn’t it? Think of how much it hurts God when we choose to reject Jesus. In rejecting Jesus, we embrace a lost eternity. ‘You don’t have to go to hell’, says Jesus, ‘for I have gone there for you and all you have to do is believe in me and be saved’.
Jesus is the ultimate expression of God’s love and in he lived and died for that love. Whether we’re aware of it or not, we crave to be loved, we were created to know love and it’s wonderful when we can express our love for one another but deep down, we crave to know the love of God, the one who created us for a love relationship with himself.
In an African village there was a fire one night in one of the small straw huts and the family perished except for a baby boy. In the darkness a person rushed into the blazing hut and pulled the baby out and the child emerged unscathed. In the morning the elders of the village had a problem as the child had just been left lying on the ground and the rescuer had disappeared. The elders had to decide what was to be done with the child – they thought it was a sign of almost divine providence and a dispute arose – the wealthy thought they should have the privilege and honour of raising the child, others who had wives who were particularly good mothers thought they should be privileged to raise the child. Many had different reasons as to why they should raise the child. Suddenly a seemingly insignificant man spoke up and claimed to have a superior claim to all the others – and he showed them his hands and they were burnt for he was the one who rescued the child. Who could possibly have a superior claim? Friends, only Jesus has scars on his hands because of his love for us – the love of Jesus is the love we look for, the love we need – the love of the One who gave himself for us.
To know that the ‘love of God is the deepest expression of his character’ is one thing but it’s another thing to know his love. We need to allow God’s sacrificial love to penetrate beyond the crust of what we believe, to renew our lives, to enable us to love one another as Christ has loved us and to empower us to practical expressions of his love in the world about us. Amen.