Updated: Mar 1
Why is it that you and I are not more joyful? Why aren’t we amazed hour by hour and minute by minute at God and His great love? Perhaps the reason why is because love is more amazing than we think.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The Greek word for love in John 3:16 is agape (pronounced uh gop’ ay). Likewise, the Greek word for “love” in I John 4:8 where the Bible says, “God is love,” is agape. Theos estin agape. Agape is unconditional grace. Pure gift.
John 3:16 heralds the gospel. The gospel announces the miracle of love. Love, by definition, is unearned. Love flows from the lover because of the lover. Love does not flow by requirement of the one loved.
In his chapter on “Charity” in his book, The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis explains: “Far be it from us to think that we have virtues for which God could love us. But then, how magnificently we have repented! As Bunyan says, describing his first and illusory conversion, ‘I thought there was no man in England that pleased God better than I.’ Beaten out of this, we next offer our own humility to God’s admiration. Surely He’ll like that? Or if not that, even our clear-sighted and humble recognition that we still lack humility. Thus, depth beneath depth and subtlety beneath subtlety, there remains some lingering idea of our own, our very own, attractiveness.”
Go deep with C.S. Lewis here. Go even deeper with the apostle Paul who explains that Jesus Who knew no sin became sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God (II Corinthians 5:17). Sinless Jesus took our sin upon Himself and thereby became the most unattractive person ever to live (Isaiah 53:2). Yet God loved Jesus so much that God raised Him from the dead (Acts 3:15).
God’s perfect love for Unattractive Jesus dying on a cross shows us God’s love in full form. God loved the One who took upon Himself all sin. If God loved Jesus Who bore the full set of sin, then God can love you with your mere subset of sin. God’s love for us as individual sinners and collective colossal sinners shows us what love is.
“Love is patient,” says I Corinthians 13. Love is patient with a friend and patient with an enemy because love is patient. The patience of love belongs to love; it has nothing at all to do with the recipient of that patience, except that love loves that recipient.
We keep thinking love is patient because others deserve patience from us. We keep flaring up because we keep seeing it as an injustice for us to have to be patient with those who are undeserving of our patience. We don’t yet understand that love is patient.
God is love (I John 4:8). God Who is love gave us His Only Begotten Son (John 3:16), and Christ died voluntarily for us “while” we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8; John 10:18).
In our boasting, we like to think that God loves us because we are somehow attractive in our own goodness. We delude ourselves into thinking that God loves us because we are spiritually more lovable than God’s enemies. We forget that we ourselves were God’s enemies (Romans 5:10).
Every Christian I have ever met, including myself, has so little understanding of love that we think it magnanimious to love our enemies (Luke 6:35). So dimly do we see that love loves an enemy just as freely as love loves a friend that in our attitudes we tacitly deny that God’s love for us says more about God than it does about us.
God is love. The nature of love is to love. Love loves. That’s what love does. Love does nothing but love.
To be loved is to be enriched by the lover. The lover does the loving. All the credit goes to the lover.
C.S. Lewis rightly taught that our little “pretense” of thinking “that we have anything of our own or could
for one hour retain by our own strength any goodness that God may pour into us” is the very thing that has kept us from being joyful.
Love buoys us up to be joyful. God is buoyed up in eternal, joyful love because God is love, and love is joyful.
Love rejoices with the truth! (I Corinthians 13:6). The truth is that our need for God is total. When we try to not need God, we instantly lose our joy. We sink as fast as Peter did when Peter tried to walk on water without totally depending on Jesus. But when we stay honest enough to rely on Christ entirely, we can do all things (Philippians 4:13).
The truth is that God loves us, not because we are attractive, but because He is attracted to us. The truth is that God’s love for us suffices for everything no matter our circumstances. The truth is that God loves us with steady, unchanging love that is so, so amazing, that when we actually receive it, we ourselves become lovers who can love our enemies, and we can be patient without patting ourselves on the back and feeling magnanimous.