God’s Love Is Not Like Man’s Love ?+
I confess my shortcomings. I have the common deficiency of man in that I am not qualified to discuss God’s love, for who can know it? It would be a worthy life’s goal in fact for you to actually search out the depth of His love in hope that you might understand a sliver of it. For if you gain just a sliver, you will have exceeded your father. Still, there are a few things concerning God’s love that I do feel qualified to address. The first one is mainly what God’s love is not.
While we humans think we understand a few things about love, in reality what we understand more than anything is our love of self. For example, consider Elvis Presley’s hit song, “Love Me Tender”.
Love me tender,
love me sweet,
never let me go.
You have made my life complete,
and I love you so.
It’s a pretty little song; moving in fact. And we can understand that there is an affection and attraction that occurs between a man and a woman, and that these attractions hold a special place in our hearts. But even in this kind of love, when our emotions and chemistry threaten to whisk us away, much of what we experience is the love of self.
We can kind of gather this from the writer’s lyrics. We can pick up on his obvious fixation on himself by asking a few questions like, What if she didn’t return his love with sweet and tender love? What if she actually couldn’t complete his life? What if she wasn’t pleasing to his eyes? In fact, what if she did everything she could to resist his love and demonstrate to him every chance she got that she hated him? Would he still love her? Probably not, because any man would love himself too much to put up with a response like that. There’s no return in it. Men and women are more in the habit of abandoning the one whom they once “loved” than they are in loving the unlovable. But people don’t abandon those they love as much as they abandon the people who can no longer please the one person they love more than anything else in the world, themselves.
It’s probably as difficult for us to grasp who we are in Christ as it is to grasp who we are without Him. We look at ourselves and cannot see the abhorrence of our sin, and our filthiness before a holy and righteous God. In fact, in our sinful condition, we reject the very notion that we are abhorrent. But in doing so we miss the love of God. It is a normal thing, as opposed to a fascinating thing, that a guy named Ken would pursue the beautiful and talented Barbie, seeking to gain the paradise that her presence promises. That is the natural and normal way. But what if Ken pursued the ugliest woman he could find, one who not only hated him, but cheated on him every chance she got? What would be “beautiful” about that love? The answer? Much! Even if man doesn’t have the eyes to see it.
Now consider if Ken was a rich king, and he transforms this wretched woman into a radiant bride at the cost of his very own life? By seeing it this way a different beauty begins to emerge. It’s not like the handsome prince who pursues and eventually wins the beautiful bride. He pursues and wins the worst among us, and then redeems them. It is at this juncture that we can begin to see that the more wretched the woman, the more beautiful His ultimate love turns out to be. So in the future, when you read the words, “while we were yet sinners”, keep this in mind. It is, to your father, five of the most beautiful and loving words in the entire Bible.
Indeed, a formidable barrier to understanding God’s love is man’s own love for himself. This love makes us see ourselves more highly than we ought because we tend to see ourselves as deserving God’s love. But we do not. So I say this in the most loving way I know how, God does not love you because you are special, or because you deserve it. There simply isn’t anything in scripture that would suggest that He does. If you were special enough to deserve God’s love, then you would have every reason to boast. But the scriptures are clear, no man has any reason whatsoever to boast.
So that raises a good question. Why does God love any of us? I have no idea. All I know is that I was a picture of the wretched woman who hated and despised Him, and He loved me. We can also ask, why did God love Jacob and hate Esau? But it would be a futile question. Pray that God would show you His love. Once you understand it you will begin to see, I think, that God’s love is not quite so cheap as to be earnable by any man.
This brings us to a third and last thing concerning God’s love that’s difficult to talk about in this day. God does not love everyone unconditionally. You will hear it said quite a bit that He does, but it isn’t true. What is true is that there is no condition by which we can earn His love, and we could say that God loves everyone in some sense. He sends rain on the righteous and the wicked alike for example. But to say that God loves everyone unconditionally cannot be found in scripture. The real question that you need to settle is this one, does God love you? And the only way you can answer yes is if you are in Christ, and Christ is in you because your can be sure that God loves His Son. And it is through the Cross He bore that God loves us. This is clear to us as we read the New Testament. We can see, for example, in John 3:16. “For God so loved the world...”. There’s God’s love. Then comes the cross, “…that he gave His only Son…”. You will find that there are very few exceptions in the New Testament in which God’s love for man is pronounced out of context with the cross. So it would behoove us, as we ponder God’s love, to keep the cross close at hand.
My dear children, to broach the subject of God’s love is a difficult thing to attempt while keeping this letter within the confines I have set for myself. There is no end to such a discussion, indeed through the ages it has been a paramount topic. Jonathan Edwards is attributed to be God’s spark that kindled a great awakening a couple hundred years ago. The sermon he preached was entitled, “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God”. That is a foreign concept today, but not to God. It is in such a sermon, and its elements, that someone discovers the extent of the true love of God.
So, dear children, if you ever doubt that God loves you, pray. Pray that He would love you. Ask Him to show you His love. Ask Him to manifest his love in you by transforming you into the likeness of His Son, and the radiant bride of His Son. Ask him that His love would kindle a love within your own soul for your Savior and others. I and your mother will be praying for you both also.