Psychologists agree that all humans have a need to be loved. When we become a Christian, we discover the greatest love story imaginable.
The Bible is not just about rules and religion; it’s a passionate love story told over 66 books. (I would recommend Larry Crabb’s book ’66 Love Letters’ for a further exploration of that idea.) It reveals who God is to us and shows us what He is like. It teaches us that His love is unlike any other love we will ever know or encounter. We discover that ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8 TNIV) and spend the rest of our lives unpacking that simple statement!
We discover that God’s love is unfailing, never-ending, unconditional, passionate, jealous, fervent, tender, compassionate and kind. We see all kinds of metaphors to describe that love. God describes Himself as our Father, as our mother, as our lover, as our friend. We see every facet of love possible in Him, including the ultimate self-sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross to save us from our sins.
Grasping the heights and depths and lengths and breadth of that love is beyond us and yet it becomes our life focus (see Ephesians 3:17-19 TNIV). We understand (without ever fully understanding!) that love never fails (1 Cor 13:1-8 TNIV). We see love as the measure of all that is holy and true. We spend our lives unlearning all the wrong things we thought about love and seeking to have our thinking reshaped so that we can understand more of His love.
On the day that I became a Christian thirty years ago, I sobbed my heart out as I realised the depth of my sin and the sacrificial love which Jesus had shown to me. I bawled like a baby on the sofa of my home as I understood for the very first time something of God’s tenderness towards me. Yet thirty years later, I feel like I am still only scratching the surface of God’s love. ‘His love is like an ocean, forever overflowing; His love is overtaking; we’ll never be forsaken.’ (‘God of Brilliant Lights’, Aaron Shust)
Just recently I’ve been meditating on how I can learn positive truth from negative statements. (The linguist in me has been enjoying this, especially as there’s a bit of a paradox going on in all of that…!) Or, in other words, I’ve been dwelling not only on the fact that God loves me but that this means I have never been unloved. That was the theme of February’s family service and I’ve been mulling this over for a long time as I have tried to plumb the depths of God’s love.
‘God loves you’ is a profound truth which can, nonetheless, seem trite and bland. So I have been looking at this multi-faceted truth from as many different angles as I can. Why does God love us? What motivates His love? Can anything change His love? What do I have to do to be loved? What influences His love?
I’ve been twisting the words around: God loves me. I am loved by God. God has always loved me. He will always love me. I have never been unloved. You might think this is a pointless exercise, but with every phrase or question, I have learnt something new about God’s love and I am confident that there is so much more to be revealed to all of us in the days and years ahead.