God loves you. God loves me. Simple words, but do we really believe them? We should, because nothing you or I do can change His love. We can’t do the right thing and make Him love us more. We can’t do the wrong thing and make Him love us less. It’s simply a fact. God loves us. He loved us when we were right in the middle of the worst sin we’ve ever committed. He loves each and every one of us with an unconditional, immeasurable love. How do we know this? He told us.
· John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.
· Rom 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
· Rom 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We can’t change God and we can’t change His love for us, but if we allow Him, He can change us. He can teach us to love one another the way He loves us.
In the first year of our marriage, I was praying one day for Tom, praying for our marriage. Like most newlyweds, we didn’t really know each other that well. I was crying out to God to draw us closer, to show me Tom’s heart. God answered that prayer, but not in the way I expected. He showed me things I didn’t want to see, things that hurt me.
Once each day for six days, Tom would make a seemingly casual comment and, like a flashbulb going off, God would show me the attitude or the feelings behind his statements. It wasn’t a pretty picture and each one cut like a knife. By the seventh day, I was a wreck. I cried out for mercy. I said, “God, why are you showing me these things? I love my husband and this pain is unbearable!”
And the Lord answered me. He said, “You wanted to see his heart. I showed you his heart. Now … I still love him. Do you?”
As I sank to my knees, I knew that I didn’t love my husband the way I should, the way God loved him. My love was conditional. I loved the good things in him. I loved him when he did things to please me. I didn’t love his weaknesses. I didn’t love him when he hurt me, even unintentionally.
Please don’t misunderstand. Tom is not some secret monster. In fact, he is an incredible blessing in my life and treats me as a blessing in his. He loves the Lord, and seeks to serve Him in all that he does. But he is human, as we all are, and God exposed his humanness to me, the wife who professed to love him.
Has God exposed the weaknesses of those around you? Have you seen ugly things in your spouse, your children, your church family? Have others been seeing ugly things in you? I believe this process of exposure is an opportunity to love as God loves. It’s easy to love people who never hurt us or make mistakes. It would be easy to love perfect people, if you could find any. I know I can’t.
But Jesus said, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) We all know we should pray for each other, instead of condemning each other. But if we are to manifest Jesus, if we are to be His representatives on this earth, then our witness must go beyond not condemning. We must truly love each other, just the way we are. In John 13:35, Jesus said By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. If we can’t love one another, brothers and sisters in Christ, then how can we possibly love the unsaved? How can we honestly love the drunk, or the drug addict, or even the neighbor that drives us nuts?
This is not an easy thing to do. But one thing the Lord has shown me, is this: when I’m finding it difficult to love someone, when someone hurts me and I want to strike back or run away, I’ve lost sight of the fact that God loves me unconditionally, no matter what I do. And it’s this love that drew me to God.
In Romans 2:4, Paul asks this question: Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? It’s His kindness that leads all of us to repentance and into the kingdom of heaven.
1 John 4:19 says this: We love, because He first loved us. This is our motivation. God loves us right where we are. This is what gives us the strength to stand where God puts us. This is how we learn to turn the other cheek. This is how we learn to love our enemies, to bless those who persecute us. This is how we even learn to truly love our spouses.
We love, not because we know we should, not by pretending that we haven’t been hurt, or that others don’t have weaknesses. We love because God first loved us. God loves us in spite of our sin. If we are to be His disciples, we can do no less. We need to honestly love each other the best we know how – right in the face of sin and pain and betrayal.
And when we fail – which I do every day – we need to confess that we can’t keep Jesus’ commandment. We need to acknowledge the sin in our heart, and ask the Lord to replace it with His love.
One biblical example of this kind of love is found in David. Saul persecuted him, tried to kill him, and made his life miserable for years. Yet God said that David was a man after His own heart. (1 Sam 13:14) Through all that distress and misery, David never struck back at Saul. And when Saul died, David mourned and wept and fasted. He chanted a lament, and told Israel to teach it to their young. It contained this line: O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul. (2 Samuel, Chapter 1.)
David learned how to love. Can we?