"I love you Maria." It was so clear, as if someone had actually spoken the words out loud. But this morning I found myself asking...
What is love?
The classic Sunday school answer is from 1 Corinthians 13: 3-8 (The Message):
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always “me first,”
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.
So when we say God is love do we mean he never gives up, cares more for others than for himself... keeps going to the end and never dies?
I suppose we do, but I suspect that since Paul is speaking to the Corinthian church about their behavior, and not God's, that God's love is far greater then the above description. Never the less I think we can learn a lot about God's character from it. please take a moment to read each line over slowly one by one:
God cares more for others than for self.
God doesn't want what it doesn't have.
God doesn't strut,
God doesn't have a swelled head,
God doesn't force itself on others,
God isn't’t always “me first,”
God doesn't fly off the handle,
God doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
God doesn't revel when others grovel,
God takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
God puts up with anything,
God trusts God always (this one doesn't work all that well),
God always looks for the best,
God never looks back,
God keeps going to the end.
God never dies.
OK now be completely honest with yourself and God are there any of the above descriptions about God that you doubt?
I know for myself I honestly doubt whether or not God has or at least will soon give up on me. why wouldn't he? I so often have given up on myself! As I write this the Spirit reminds me of the story of Israel, how they were repeatedly disobedient, rebellious, turning from God, and yet God kept on loving them, He would discipline them (just another act of His love), and when they would repent, and turn back to Him, He would welcome them back with open arms! The Old Testament is filled with the narrative of a God who never gives up on His people! AND what does Paul tell the church in Philippians 1:6? I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (English Standard Vision). Does this sound like a God who gives up on us? No, it sounds like a God who loves us till the very end. Moreover Paul writes to the Roman church that:
I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).
These couple verses are only the very tip of the iceberg; the running theme, the scarlet thread, the whole Bible is filled with God's never ever giving up love. Even though sometimes it can be hard to understand, or to identify as love, everything, absolutely everything God does and doesn't do is love, but please don't take my word for it, do your own Bible study, take the time to really explore God's love in the Bible, ask the hard questions, don't shy away from the painful and uncomfortable, dig deep, press in, read commentaries, pray, go to a Bible study, an Alpha group, whatever and wherever you can discover more about the love of God. Because I can promise you that as you go deeper into the love of God you will become more and more alive, you will experience greater freedom and joy, that is not to say life will be all sunshine and rainbows, but you will have a deep inner peace that will be better then anything you could think up or imagine (Philippians 4: 4-7).
So what you? What about God's love for you do you have a harder time believing? Don't be ashamed, we all have some doubts. the important thing is that you recognize them, honestly present them to your loving Father, and hear the truth (often you'll find the truth to the lie in the Bible, so open it up and start reading!).
Let us follow Paul's example and get down on our knees and ask our Father to strength us in His Spirit, so that we may comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:14-19).