The Pastor's Pen
Love is in the air. At least that’s the message I’m getting as I look at the store decorations and advertisements reminding me that Valentine’s Day is near. According to the logic of the market, the way to truly communicate love to that special person in your life is through a box of chocolates, a manufactured card, and a pre-arranged assortment of flowers. Now, I certainly think that those can be legitimate ways to express and show love. Indeed, love between people can be expressed in words, deeds, actions, gestures, and gifts, but unless they are accompanied by interaction that is personal and genuine, they may not accomplish all that is intended in the giving of them. God himself shows us that personal interaction is important in the expression of love, and thus He demonstrates that love in a myriad of ways to His creation, to people in general, and to His children in particular.
Trying to explain the definition and meaning of love has kept philosophers busy, song-writers occupied, poets in deep contemplation, and publishers working non-stop for many centuries. It is a subject that can never be studied and practiced enough, nor can the appetite for it be fully satiated. And while we may not be able to fully grasp the subject, love is something that we need to learn more about, both intellectually and experientially. So, with this month’s article, let’s take a brief look at love, as it is seen and practiced by the source of love – the God of heaven and earth.
The Bible says that “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8). Thus, we should expect to see in the Scriptures a diverse number of ways in which God shows His love. A full listing is beyond the scope of a short article like this one. Indeed, God’s love is the study of entire seminary courses, the subject of many sermon series, and the stimulus for an untold series of books written by Christian authors, poets, and theologians. Nonetheless, we can give a few ideas from the Scriptures that will serve as fodder for our souls and encouragement for our hearts concerning this great subject. I encourage you to take this list and use it in your personal prayer time this month and grow in your understanding of the great love that God has for His children.
What are some ways in which the Bible speaks of the love of God?
God’s love is generous.
“The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation’” (Ex 34:6-7).
“The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made” (Ps. 145:8).
God’s love is sacrificial.
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be a propitiation for ours sins” (1 Jn. 4:10).
“But God shows his love for us in that while were we still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
God’s love is personal.
“See the kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 Jn. 3:1).
“In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ; according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace” (Eph. 1:5-6).
God’s love is tough.
“And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.’ It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons” (Heb. 12:5-8).
God’s love is protective.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39).
“How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings” (Ps 36:7).
God’s love is eternal.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23).
“In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the LORD, your Redeemer” (Is. 54:18).
As I have said, this is not an exhaustive list, but it is a representative one of what the Bible says on the subject of God’s love. The late Francis Schaeffer, in his book, “The Mark of the Christian,” says that the display of Christian love is what sets God’s People apart from all others. The love of God, shown in sacrifice, unity, and service, is the “mark” that causes others to notice that there is something different about us. He said, “Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are indeed Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father” (The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer, Volume 4, p. 204.)
This month, I encourage you to mediate upon the love of God and what that means for you, for your loved ones, and for your interaction with family, neighbors, co-workers, students, and others that God brings across your path. God has shown us His love through the sending of His Son (Jn. 3:16). He has poured out his love in our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). He now sends us out to show the world what love looks like as, girded by His amazing love, we live for Him in the proclamation of the Word and in service to others.