GOD’S LOVE COMPELS US TO LOVE
I believe it was C S Lewis who said, “It is not so much that God made us to love him, but that he might love us.” In love God is the leader and the teacher and the example.
Why would God pay us any attention? In Islam, God has no interaction with humanity. In Deism, God has no interest in interacting with us. In some religions, God is more interested in punishing and torturing humanity. Why do we believe that God is love?
The simple answer is that God has loved us. I am telling you that your worst moments in life are nothing compared to a world where God’s love is absent. It can get bad in our world. It is fallen and broken and it can be ruthless and cruel, and psychopathic, and as evil as anyone can imagine. The reason that these things are true is because we humans are ruthless, and cruel and psychopathic and evil. We rebel against all that is good and wholesome and pure and righteous because we are fallen and evil. We are depraved in every element of our being. I know some don’t like to hear that but we need to come to terms with ourselves if we are to understand love. But if God’s love was not with us, life would be a living hell. You would not have to die to experience judgment. It would be a daily experience.
In spite of our condition, God loved us. If God made us to love, then when God gave Adam free will to choose God or to choose sin, God was not caught off guard. I don’t understand all of this but I can tell you this, it is in the fall of humanity that God shows us the height and length and depth of his love for us. When we are put in our right minds by the actions of God, we are overwhelmed by the love of God. We are compelled to love others the way God loved us.
John said, little children, beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God. And he repeats it over and over again “love one another.” I believe that this a command, not a suggestion. That is the strange thing about love, it can be commanded. John says, “Love is from God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” Jesus said that the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love our neighbor.
We need to understand that love, as defined in Scripture, is not emotion, it is an act of the will. This is why it can be commanded. Have you ever asked the question, I can I love such an obnoxious person? We ask it because we do not like them. They are awful to us. But you can love them because it is not about how you feel about them but how you treat them. This is why we must love the most unlovable, the lazy, and the down and out, those who harm themselves, who drink their lives away, and so forth. We may be repulsed by them, but if we hold the disposition of love, if we have our will under the control of the Holy Spirit, we will show godly love by our actions and our behavior.
Remember, God defines love. It means that what the world calls love is not love at all. Romantic love, animal-like passion, warm feelings are not what God means by love. But there is a biblical word that describes something like these emotions, splagchnon. It means to be deeply moved, in the heart, literally in the entrails. It is usually translated as affection. I think it is safe to say that God’s love can produce in us deep affections.
The ancient Apostle John says that this is love, not in the fact that we loved God but that God has loved us. John draws the supreme picture of love in that Christ died for us so that we might live. Can you think of a greater act to express love? This means that the justice of God was satisfied in the sacrificial death of Jesus. God’s love is redemptive. The death of Christ covers our sins and God sees our sins no more. It is by that act that we have been put in right relationship with God.
I don’t want us to think that there is no emotion in God’s love for us. As you read the Old Testament, you will find emotional language in reference to God. God is a jealous God. God goes to great lengths for his beloved. God lavishes Israel with wonderful gifts. And he is long suffering. He pleaded with Israel to return. He woos them as a lover seeks his beloved. He even stated that he will sacrifice all the other nations on Israel’s behalf. God is deeply emotional about his people. He loves us in ways that are unmeasurable. He has gone to the depths for us. How can we ever understand what it means for God to leave his glory and become flesh and to live among us and die for us, to bear our sin? How can we ever understand the depth of that love? Yet, we are the recipients of that love. We are loved by God. Yet even with Israel, there came a time when God turned them over to their judgment. God’s love allows us to turn from God and to reject God even when that rejection leads to our eternal judgment.
It is no accident then that John follows up on this verse by saying “Beloved if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” How could it be that we who have been loved so much could not love others? The fact is, we are possessed by God and, therefore, by his love. To John it is so simple. If we are in Christ, we love. If we are not in Christ, we cannot love. Love is the very expression of God’s holiness in us!
If we cannot love, if the love of God is not in us, then we are not of God. If we say we love God and hate our brother, we are liars according to John.
The language in the Greek is strong. We are obligated to love. We are to love others as Christ loved us. We owe a debt of love to others because God has loved us. It is an immediate debt. We cannot wait to love tomorrow. We must love today. How can we put off something so fundamental to another day? We are called upon to love our spouses and our children. But also we are called upon to love our brothers and sisters in Christ and our neighbors and our friends and even our enemies. Love transcends moods and mental states and physical conditions. In fact, we can love others the most when we are at our weakest. I say this because we have nothing left to give but love.
Love is the most powerful force in the universe. Love redeems people from abuse and from alcoholism and drugs. It fixes broken lives. Love pursued us in our darkness and would not let us go. Love called us out of our darkness and into the light of Christ. Love created a church in which we can find comfort and strength and purpose. Love creates a future for those who love God. It creates a place, an eternity, a glorious existence in the presence of God forever.
We have been called and bound together as the people of God by love. And if we are God’s beloved, then we need to love what God loves. It is not optional and it is not something that can be put off until tomorrow. It is today that is real and concrete. It is today that we must love and if tomorrow comes, then we must again love.
God’s love for us compels to keep this great commandant, to love our neighbor as God has loved us. Let us love one another because love is from God.