Beloved

1 John 4:7 “Dear friends, let us love one another, because love comes from God.”

Literally, John’s “dear friends” is “beloved”– you know, like you hear preachers beginning wedding ceremonies in the movies, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…” We don’t talk that way in every day conversation. But it says something about the way God loves us.

            Right from the start, we are people God loves. Love, after all, is what distinguishes him. Unfortunately, many people don’t think of love first when they think of God. “Rules come from God.” That’s what many people think. And it is true, so far as it goes. God is the author of right and wrong, and this in no way contradicts his love. But to many people this is just an intrusion into their lives. “I’m a mature adult,” they think. “I can make my own decisions. Why doesn’t God mind his own business?”

            “Justice, and Judgment, come from God.” That, too, is true so far as it goes. But that never won God any friends. It scares people. It makes them run and hide from him, like Adam and Eve did in the garden of Eden.

Or it makes them shake their fist at God, because they don’t think he is being fair: “Why are you treating me this way?” Even God himself calls this his strange work, his alien work in the book of Isaiah. It’s the part of his job he likes the least. He doesn’t like to punish. But someone has to do it. Otherwise, our world would end up in utter chaos.

            “Love comes from God…God is love.” That is what God should be known for. To understand his love, we need to realize that it is not just any kind of love. It is not romance. The first thing I noticed about my wife was that she was pretty. It didn’t hurt that she had this bubbly personality I found attractive. God does not love us based on finding us attractive–not physically or spiritually. If we understand what our sins have done to us, then we know that they have made us unattractive to him. God loves us anyway.

            God does not love us like a consumer loves. Consumers buy things and own things to use them up. I “love” a juicy steak because it makes me happy to eat it. I “love” my car because it is comfortable and it makes me happy to drive it. Someday it will wear out, and then I won’t love it. But God doesn’t love us because we are objects he finds useful for his happiness. We are far worse than the broken down car. He is always putting more into us than he is getting out of us. God loves us anyway.

            If love comes from God, then how do we describe his kind of love? God’s love is unconditional. It is not based on our worthiness or response. It’s not like a contract in which we have to keep up our side of the bargain. You realize that you could never sin so much, or so severely, that it would make God stop loving you? I am not recommending that we try. Sin can still make our lives miserable and destroy our faith. But that is all on us. It is not because God ever stops loving you. His love is unconditional.

            God’s love is unselfish. It is about giving, not taking. Certainly he is happy when we start to love him and serve him in return. But this is not the reason he loves us. In the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus has the father answer the second son, who is angry that his father is so generous with the little brother who wasted his father’s inheritance: “You are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” That’s how God loves us: Everything I have is yours. God’s love is unselfish.

            God’s love is unlimited. Nothing is too big to ask, nothing is too much for him to do, if it will truly help and serve us. You can look in the Bible and see that love led him to split the Red Sea in two, make the earth stand still, and become a man and sacrifice his own life to save us. Because this is love, you understand, this is not the same thing as giving us whatever we want. If helping you and serving your real needs meant giving you a billion dollars or miraculously healing your cancer, God wouldn’t hesitate for a second. But sometimes he knows we need the poverty or the disease even more, and because his love is unlimited, he is even willing to give us these things.

            God’s love is unending. The supply never runs out. It is never anything less than full. He will love you for the rest of your life, and through death, and for all eternity. There will never be a “when” that God doesn’t love you.

            This, then, is the kind of love that comes from God. Let that fact sink in, and know that you are loved.

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