When I make the statement "What is Love?" what comes to mind? Initially for me it's the song from the movie, "A Night at the Roxbury" and the various Saturday Night Live skits that came along with that song. I also think of Valentines Day and new romance, I think of a mother and her child or even some guys and their sports. When I settle in though and I think of the word "love" and it's best definition, God and Jesus come to mind. For some, this would be the penultimate of love and for others it would be a fairy tale. To me God's love is very real, for I have seen it's outworking in my life. I have seen God's love most vibrantly through the fact that He brought me to Him and offered me salvation through His son Jesus. At this Christmas season it is important that we see God's love in the child that was born in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago and the reason that child had to be born.
These days in our current culture it has become popular to define "love" as an emotion or the action that is provoked by the emotion. Most times when people talk about love it comes with the conditions that you love the way they define love and not the way God defines love. This is why people can say without hesitation that they fall in and out of love. When that mushy, warm and fuzzy feeling goes away it must be time to get a divorce or move on to someone who "loves me for who I am". That is not love.
Now, don't get me wrong there are those within the hallowed walls of church buildings that do the same thing. As they sit in their pews or chairs they look at a cross that bore the child whose birth we celebrate at Christmas and think that his love was only defined by what he did with sinners and by bringing the Gospel message to them. Well that is only half of the story. Remember the necessity for his birth and the cross, our sin. There is an ugly side to love too. Love is sacrificial; it is dying to self and bearing others sins so that their relationship with Christ can be better. It is loving the sinner and hating the sin. It is loving the homosexual, drug addict, porn addict, but hating their sin. It is loving him/her so much that you show them their sin and then show your love for them day in and day out by being a Christ like example.
As I though and prayed on this I came up with a few words that describe Gods love.
Security – If you are a believer, meaning if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior then you have the security in knowing that God will never fail you or leave you. Look at Isaiah 49:15-16. Verse 15 points out that God will never forget his own. In context here he is talking about Israel, but in the greater context it is all those He has drawn to Him. Verse 16 states that we are engraved on the palms of His hands. How awesome is that! We also know that once we have been called to Him no one can snatch us out of His hand (John 10:28). What assurance it is to know that no man or even Satan himself cannot snatch us out of God's hand. God's love for us is so great that we have the security in knowing that we will be His for eternity.
Atonement – This is the part of God's love that the world and even so called "Christians" chose to ignore. People do not like the fact that we are all sinners and that the only way we could gain entrance to heaven was by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross (Romans 5:8). Our sin was what was nailed to the cross with Jesus. Our sin is what required Jesus to be born. Our sin is what required God to provide the perfect sacrifice we could not provide. Look at 1 John 4:10. Look, the verse says that love is not that we first loved God, but that He loved us and what was the outflow of that love? Look again at the verse, that He sent His son, Jesus Christ, for our sins. We needed a Savior and we needed the perfect sacrifice. When we are showing God's love for us we cannot forget this aspect. Yes the idea that our sins needed to be atoned for is ugly, but it was required by God.
Vindication – We were vindicated by Christ's death on the cross. We once stood in opposition to God, we once stood as His enemy and in one swoop we were ushered into His presence through what was accomplished on the cross. John 3:16 states this perfectly. It was because of God's love that He gave His son to die for us. This is why we have eternal life. Vindicated through the cross. Look at another set of verses, Titus 3:4-7. Look at who vindicated us, not you and certainly not me….it was God. The Titus verses also point out that it is not of any good works we have performed that we are vindicated, but through the cross and the cross alone. It is not because we hang out with homosexuals, it is not because we work at a suicide hotline and it is not because we help the homeless that saves us. The cross and the cross alone saves us.
Intercessor – Jesus Christ, by becoming our intercessor before His father is a great example of His love for us. Hebrews 7:25 states this perfectly. As we as sinners draw near to God, Jesus intercedes for us and shows his Father the holes in his hands and feet as payment for our sins. What a picture! Christ going between the sinner and God interceding on the sinners behalf. What love produces this? God's love for us and his appointment of Jesus to this role. It is because of his being our intercessor that we need to go through Him to have salvation. We must accept his death on the cross. John 14:6 is clear on this. There is no way to heaven except through Jesus Christ. There is no alternate method, no other intercessor and no other so-called deity that can make us perfect before God. Your own personal Jesus just will not do! The Jesus of the Bible is the only way.
Nullification – God's love for us provided a nullification of our sins. When Jesus died on the cross he didn't die for a few of our sins, he died for all of our sins. Jesus death did not die for a few of our sins and we have to make up the rest through our good deeds. If we look at 1 John 4:10 again we see that Jesus died for our sins, all of them. We must understand that our works are as filthy rags to God (Is. 64:6).
Obedience – When we accept Christ as our Savior the outflow should be our obedience to scripture. Our culture would tell us that time has passed the Bible up, that it is not culturally relevant and that it is something that we can take what we like and leave what offends us. 1 John 2:3-6 would tell us different though. We must follow His commandments if we say we love him and call him Lord. We must see that when the Bible calls homosexuality, abortion, pornography or adultery sin then guess what….it's sin. We cannot say that because this aspect of scripture offends our conscience it is wrong. The whole and entirety of scripture is true. Our love for God should be seen in our obedience to Him and to His Word!
Recently my knowledge of love and the practical application of that in my life has been challenged. I would hope and pray that I could be a Godly example of love to the people God brings across my path, but for some reason I have a feeling that the love this person desires me to emulate is not the love expressed by God. I have a feeling that the love that this person wants me to live out is his version of love, through his version of God. More than likely it is a type of love that is devoid of obedience to what God commands and is only filled with the mushy love that gives you butterflies and puts you on n emotional rollercoaster due to the fact that it is based on mans feelings and not Gods commandments. I know that the love that is expressed above and the one that I am called to model is one that brings me joy all year around, even in times of trial and persecution. The love that I hope and pray to live out is one that loves the sinner and hates the sin. This type of love is the type that will cast God in light He is intended to be seen and not a false light with a false hope. This love is devoid of denomination and does not require you to go to my church or even a church of my liking, but only requires that you live a life that knows the Security of salvation, understands that God required an Atonement for our sinful lives, knows that we have been Vindicated by Jesus Christ's death on the cross, understands that we only have one Intercessor in Jesus Christ, understands that the cross Nullified all the sins we have committed, are committing and will commit and that Obedience is required as an outflow of my love of God and what He has done for me.
Please know and understand dear reader that I do not claim to live this out perfectly each and every day and do have my flaws. My knowledge of the above makes it that more convicting, because it is not like I don't know how I should live in light of the knowledge of God's love, but that at times I live the way I want to live in disobedience to Gods Word. I hope that as God constantly refines me to be the man He desires me to be that my heart would be known to all men and that they would see God's love through my words and actions.