The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness... (Exodus 34:6). For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16).
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:8-10).
The love of God is greater news than a short devotional can possibly contain. But today, I’d like to consider the love of God from two important perspectives. First, I want to consider love as God’s personal trait, and second, his love for sinners like you and I.
It’s extremely important for us to know without shadow of doubt or disbelief that God is love. Doubt about this will shake the foundation of our relationship with him. It’s not merely that God is loving, but that God is, in his nature, love itself. The Apostle John explored this concept frequently, reminding us that God is love. In doing so, he connected a confession of the New Testament believers with the confession of the Old Testament. In Exodus 34:6, we read an oft-recited passage, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness...” That phrase, “steadfast love,” is an important one. It employs a Hebrew word called chessed. This word stands for the unstoppable, relentless, untiring, sinner-chasing love of God. It’s not a mere feeling. It’s a decisive, rescuing love. It’s the love of God, shown.
Perhaps you’re thinking, “that’s great, but how am I supposed to know that God loves me?” Good question. It’s all well and good to be told that God loves you. But, it’s another matter entirely to be shown. Love is connected to cost. If I say I love you, you might feel nicely about that, or you may not care. But if I say I love you and pay off all your debts, then my love for you simply matters more. I’ve shown great love for you through a generous gift.
God’s generous self-sacrifice takes us to our second consideration—the love of God for sinners. Because God is love, his love for us isn’t arbitrary. His love for sinners is a part of his nature. So to bring us back to himself, it was he himself that would have to make the greatest sacrifice.
“In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that God loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” This is scandalous if true. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross isn’t an expression of love. It’s the expression of love. If God has proven his love for me and you in this way, then to not return love to God is sin of cosmic proportions. But to be caught up in a love relationship with God on the basis of his son’s sacrifice, this is a privilege of unparalleled wonder.
I understand that sometimes it’s hard to feel the love of God. We have days where our emotions betray us into believing that we are unloved, ugly, and worthless. But God has better news for us, and regardless of how we feel about it, it’s true. God loves you and I with the kind of love that embraces death for the sake of the other. God loves us like this. May we, therefore, be filled with such love as we live for him!
God, you love me. Today, help me to remember that. When I feel unloved, bring to mind all that you've done to prove your love to me. And Jesus, cause me to overflow with the same love for you and for others.