Before We Loved Him
But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Most of our human relationships are based on mutual attraction and benefits. We enjoy our friends because they make us feel good, we were attracted to our spouses because we feel more alive to them, and we work at our jobs because we receive satisfaction and a salary. When times get tough, we hang in there for a while, but if things don’t improve, we’re tempted to bail out.
Because family relationships involve more commitment, we stick it out through thick and thin, but even then, strains and disagreements erode our affections. God’s love for us, however, is different-radically different. He doesn’t demand compliance to rules or certain behaviors to win His love. He gives it liberally, freely, and without conditions. Paul says that God lavishes His live on us (Ephesians 1:7-8). We don’t deserve good treatment from God. That’s why it’s called grace.
God doesn’t love us because we’re worthy of His affection; He loves us in spite of our rebellion, apathy, and selfishness. We have nothing to offer to win His approval, but He loves us anyway. And He didn’t wait for us to respond to shower us with love. Paul tells us that God loved us “while we were still sinners.” God’s love, though, isn’t syrupy sentimentality. It’s bold, active affection that moves to win our hearts. The depth of this love is demonstrated by how much and how selflessly it gives, and Christ’s death on the cross is the ultimate gift.
Do we ever wonder if God really cares? When we doubt, we can look at the Cross.
If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.
I John 4:9-11 says this:
“By this the love of God was displayed in us, in that God has sent His [One and] only begotten Son [the One who is truly unique, the only One of His kind] into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [that is, the atoning sacrifice, and the satisfying offering] for our sins [fulfilling God’s requirement for justice against sin and placating His wrath]. Beloved, if God so loved us [in this incredible way], we also ought to love one another.”
Scripture tells us that the Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world- God knowing that we would be trapped in the prison of sin and needing a Redeemer. What moved God to such drastic measures was nothing more nor less than His love for us. When He created Adam, He gave him the power to choose what he would love. In the Garden was a tree that was the testing place. Could Adam trust the love of God to give him everything he needed or was there something God was withholding from him? Isn’t that our question? Does God truly love me? If so why hasn’t He given me everything I need? Why does He allow me to suffer? Why doesn’t He remove all the pain and trouble of life? Those are the questions posed by many including Christians.
Sometimes there are those who are driven by performance, service, rituals in hope that if they do the right things they will somehow qualify themselves for the love of God, never realizing that God’s love has already been given and the proof of that love is in the sending of His Beloved Son. John says it’s not that God is responding to our love for Him but that He first loved us. He initiated the relationship. He pursues us. He desires us to be with Him. He seeks ways to pour out upon us lavish love.
Imagine if someone loved you so much that you were always first. They loved you when you did well and loved you at your worst moment, without conditions. At best this would be shallow love in comparison to the way God loves us. Humans might love us deeply but human love has limits. After a while when those we love don’t respond to our overtures, we walk away or we lessen our reaching out to them. We reason that if there isn’t a response we’re wasting our time so we move on. God doesn’t respond that way. He loves us to the end.
When I was working a a hospice chaplain, I met a man who had lived an ungodly. In his own words, he said that he had cared for no one, taken the advantage of and mistreated everyone he had known including his own family. He could think of nothing he had done that was good. When I first met him, his crusty, mean demeanor was evident. He reluctantly agreed to seeing me every month after pressure from one of his sisters. One day near the end of his journey, he asked me about God. I told him the story of Jesus and the thief on the cross. When I finished, he asked me whether I thought God would accept someone like him. After all, he had no time to make mends or to try to live a better life. He had no way to earn or deserve grace. I invited him to ask God for forgiveness and he did. His family told me later that the transformation in him was almost unbelievable and when he died, he died in peace. That my friend is the power of the love of God who will take the worst of sinners and offer him the blessing of heaven.
There’s an old song that says it better than I:
Oh the love that drew salvation’s plan
Oh the grace that brought it down to man
Oh the mighty gulf that God did span
Mercy there was great and grace was free
Pardon there was multiplied to me
There my burdened souls found liberty
You see Calvary is the ultimate display of the love of God for you and me.
How do we respond to such love? Paul says that it is so powerful and great that our only acceptable response is to offer ourselves as bond-servants- those who place themselves in total surrender and bondage to the One they love.
Once the love of God has truly captured your heart, nothing that God asks is too much. With desire and passion, we serve Him and the people loves- everyone. That’s what 1 John says.
“There is no fear in love [dread does not exist]. But perfect (complete, full-grown) love drives out fear, because fear involves [the expectation of divine] punishment, so the one who is afraid [of God’s judgment] is not perfected in love [has not grown into a sufficient understanding of God’s love]. We love, because He first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates (works against) his [Christian] brother he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should also [unselfishly] love his brother and seek the best for him.”
1 John 4:18-21
Dr. John Thompson