God is love: His love in action

In the begin­ning God cre­at­ed the earth and all that is in it, includ­ing man. Man was unique and spe­cial because God cre­at­ed him in His own image. Being cre­at­ed in His image means that we too can love, have com­pas­sion, be kind, have a nat­ur­al ten­den­cy to do what is right and appre­ci­ate God’s good­ness. This is a major dif­fer­ence between man and oth­er crea­tures. Thus God gave man author­i­ty over all things on earth.

God’s aim in cre­at­ing man was that he can have a har­mo­nious and lov­ing rela­tion­ship with his cre­ator. God nev­er forced man into this rela­tion­ship with Him and this is why He cre­at­ed human beings with a free will, so that we our­selves can choose to remain with God, acknowl­edge Him and sub­mit to Him as our mas­ter and Lord. In a true rela­tion­ship both sides give free­dom to each oth­er. God’s love is vis­i­ble in the fact that every­thing he cre­at­ed is good, espe­cial­ly man who is gift­ed with these qual­i­ties.

Mankind on its part played hav­oc with the design of God by doing things which were con­trary to the pur­pose with which God made man. Man mis­used the gift of free will and act­ed against God. By this sin man sep­a­rat­ed him­self from his cre­ator. A God who is com­plete­ly holy and lov­ing expects man to be like Him but man brought dis­as­ter on him­self by run­ning after dif­fer­ent forms of evil like:

  • Sex­u­al immoral­i­ty and impu­ri­ty
  • Idol­a­try and black mag­ic
  • Hatred, jeal­ousy, anger, self­ish ambi­tion, dis­putes, envy
  • Drunk­en­ness, orgies, etc.

Man had fall­en away from the pres­ence of God and had lost the close­ness which he enjoyed in the begin­ning. In spite of this insult of God’s won­der­ful cre­ation by man, God in his ever­last­ing mer­cy did not wipe out mankind from the face of the earth. He let them live in the patient hope that one day these peo­ple would come to their sens­es. Even in the time of wicked­ness of man, God did not with­draw his lov­ing kind­ness in that He gave them rain from heav­en and crops in their sea­sons; pro­vid­ed them with plen­ty of food and filled their hearts with joy.

Since the time when man destroyed the rela­tion­ship with his cre­ator, God has shown His great love in dif­fer­ent ways.

  • It was God who ini­ti­at­ed to restore the rela­tion­ship with man by mak­ing Him­self known time and again to those who sought and obeyed Him.
  • It was God who had plans to use these God-fear­ing peo­ple to lead humankind out of its mis­er­able state back to the right path.
  • And it was Him who want­ed to pre­pare mankind by all this for His sal­va­tion and high­est rev­e­la­tion.

Yet man was indif­fer­ent and uncon­cerned of his respon­si­bil­i­ty in build­ing this rela­tion­ship. Apart from a few peo­ple on the earth every­one else opposed the rela­tion­ship with God.

It was through this hand­ful of peo­ple who were obe­di­ent to God that He unfold­ed the mys­tery of sal­va­tion. In the book of the begin­nings (Gen­e­sis 22:18) God promised the com­ing of a right­eous man with these words:

… and through your off­spring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.

This covenant of love which was estab­lished by the word of God with Abra­ham was the pio­neer of God’s sal­va­tion plan for the whole of mankind. It was God’s deci­sion to bring man out of his fall­en state through the descen­dents of Abra­ham, Isaac, and Jacob; Jacob who was lat­er on called Israel. This Israel became a great nation who was the torch­bear­er of God’s sal­va­tion. God’s mighty hand was with them when He pro­nounced judg­ment on Egypt where the Israelites were slaves. Even in the time of slav­ery in Egypt God did not for­sake them but res­cued them from the bondage of slav­ery through a series of amaz­ing events. God brought them out of Egypt through a vast desert into the Promised Land. There are many pas­sages in the Bible which speak about the unfail­ing love of God in these times like:

Remem­ber how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to hum­ble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his com­mands. He hum­bled you, caus­ing you to hunger and then feed­ing you with man­na, which nei­ther you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell dur­ing these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man dis­ci­plines his son, so the LORD your God dis­ci­plines you. (Deuteron­o­my 8:1–5)

It was a great set­back and a sad event for God when Israel as a nation became dis­obe­di­ent to Him. The nation through whom God had planned to save the whole world turned out to be unfit­ting for car­ry­ing out this task. They exceed­ing­ly pro­voked God by their evil deeds in that they turned to worth­less idols. They quick­ly for­got their Sav­ior and sinned grave­ly against Him. In the book of Hosea (one of the prophets in the Bible) there is a beau­ti­ful chap­ter which com­pares the love of God towards Israel to that of a Father who loves his child:

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called Israel, the fur­ther they went from me. They sac­ri­ficed to the Baals and they burned incense to images. It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, tak­ing them by the arms; but they did not real­ize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kind­ness, with ties of love; I lift­ed the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them. (Hosea 11:1–4)

God out of His mer­cy and love sent His ser­vants and prophets time and again urg­ing Israel, rebuk­ing them and even pun­ish­ing them in the hope that they might turn back to Him. Like a Father dis­ci­plines his child so God tried to dis­ci­pline them but often His acts of love were repaid with hatred by the peo­ple of Israel. They per­se­cut­ed the ser­vants of God and prophets who brought dif­fer­ent mes­sages of love.

They even killed those who pre­dict­ed the com­ing of the Right­eous One. (Acts of the Apos­tles 7:52)

In the para­ble of the ten­ants we see God’s aim of send­ing His ser­vants:

There was a landown­er who plant­ed a vine­yard. He put a wall around it, dug a wine­press in it and built a watch­tow­er. Then he rent­ed the vine­yard to some farm­ers and went away on a jour­ney. When the har­vest time approached, he sent his ser­vants to the ten­ants to col­lect his fruit. The ten­ants seized his ser­vants; they beat one, killed anoth­er, and stoned a third. Then he sent oth­er ser­vants to them, more than the first time, and the ten­ants treat­ed them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. “They will respect my son,” he said. (Gospel of Matthew 21:33–36)

Should we think that God’s plan of sal­va­tion was fail­ing because Israel as a nation had alto­geth­er become dis­obe­di­ent and unfit­ting for the task? Absolute­ly not! One thing which we need to remem­ber is God is not like man. His ways are not like ours. Man can­not hin­der God from ful­fill­ing His plans.

The time was draw­ing near for God to ful­fill his promise made cen­turies before to Abra­ham. The great­est mys­tery in the his­to­ry of mankind was about to be revealed: God Him­self became man and dwelt among us. He was the Christ, the Holy One of God. In Jesus Christ the invis­i­ble God became vis­i­ble. This is the ulti­mate act of love when God who is Spir­it became man and came so close to us that we were able to touch Him, see Him, and lis­ten to him. His sole aim in becom­ing man was to show the way back to Him and to rec­on­cile man with Him­self. Since Jesus was com­plete­ly man he showed how we can live a right­eous life in obe­di­ence to the cre­ator. Jesus Christ is not only our exam­ple whom we should fol­low but He is also our God and Lord.

In the let­ter to the Philip­pi­ans Paul writes in chap­ter 2:

Your atti­tude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not con­sid­er equal­i­ty with God some­thing to be grasped, but made him­self noth­ing, tak­ing the very nature of a ser­vant, being made in human like­ness. And being found in appear­ance as a man, he hum­bled him­self and became obe­di­ent to death—even death on a cross! (Let­ter to the Philip­pi­ans 2:5–8)

In the let­ter to the Hebrews the writer intro­duces Christ with these words:

In the past God spoke to our fore­fa­thers through the prophets at many times and in var­i­ous ways, but in these last days he has spo­ken to us by his Son, whom he appoint­ed heir of all things, and through whom he made the uni­verse. The Son is the radi­ance of God’s glo­ry and the exact rep­re­sen­ta­tion of his being, sus­tain­ing all things by his pow­er­ful word. (Let­ter to the Hebrews 1:1–3)

These last days began with the com­ing of our Lord Jesus Christ into this world and with the good news He start­ed to preach. In his own words he declared:

“The time has come,” he said. “The king­dom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Gospel of Mark 1:15)

His min­istry on earth was in accor­dance with the Old Tes­ta­ment prophe­cies made cen­turies ear­li­er. His gra­cious words on the day when he stood up to read from the scroll of the prophet Isa­iah just con­firms this fact:

Unrolling it, he found the place where it is writ­ten: “The Spir­it of the Lord is on me, because he has anoint­ed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to pro­claim free­dom for the pris­on­ers and recov­ery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to pro­claim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the atten­dant and sat down. The eyes of every­one in the syn­a­gogue were fas­tened on him, and he began by say­ing to them, “Today this scrip­ture is ful­filled in your hear­ing.” (Luke 4:18–21)

The pur­pose with which God sent his son into the world was in accor­dance with the mes­sage pre­vi­ous­ly preached by the ser­vants of God who came before Jesus. As we read in the pas­sage men­tioned ear­li­er,

Last of all, he sent his son to them. “They will respect my son,” he said. (Gospel of Matthew 21:37)

But Jesus revealed more than them. He was the ful­fill­ment of the law giv­en through Moses cen­turies before. This means that He is the final word of God request­ing mankind to turn to Him.

When two dis­ci­ples of Jesus, Peter and John, were arrest­ed for heal­ing a crip­pled man, they were brought before the supreme court of Israel (= San­hedrin) whose mem­bers inquired:

“By what pow­er or what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spir­it, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the peo­ple! If we are being called to account today for an act of kind­ness shown to a crip­ple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the peo­ple of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you cru­ci­fied but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.” (Acts of the Apos­tles 4:7b–12)

Note the last verse (verse 12) of this pas­sage:

… that there is no oth­er name under heav­en giv­en to men by which we must be saved and that name is Jesus Christ.

… and that name is Jesus Christ. Jesus’ min­istry on earth was accom­pa­nied by life-giv­ing words and works of mir­a­cles. He lived a life com­plete­ly obe­di­ent to God which God Him­self con­firmed by these words:

This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Lis­ten to him! (Gospel of Matthew 17:5b)

There can be no greater wit­ness than God him­self who tes­ti­fies about Jesus Christ:

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become chil­dren of God. (Gospel of John 1:12)

To be called chil­dren of God is a priv­i­lege and hon­or giv­en to those who accept Jesus as their Sav­ior. Those who accept Jesus and his words and put them into prac­tice in their lives show that they love God and want to obey Him. They are the ones who respond to the love of God and are not indif­fer­ent to His call of love. Jesus showed God’s love by giv­ing free­dom to those peo­ple who lis­tened to his words—freedom to accept Him and fol­low Him. He nev­er forced his words on anyone—thus respect­ing the free will of man.

In the world we see that peo­ple love each oth­er based on some emo­tions, feel­ings, per­son­al inter­ests etc.

They expect some­thing in return. In con­trast the love of God is uncon­di­tion­al. God’s love, which is beyond human love, sur­pass­es all under­stand­ing. Nowhere we see that God puts con­di­tions like, “If you love me, then I would love you” or “Do this and that and then I will love you.” On the con­trary, God loved us first, even before we ever imag­ined to love Him. As we read in 1. John 4:19:

We love because he first loved us.

This shows that only through God’s love we can tru­ly love. He makes us able to love with the same love with which He loved us. This love is fur­ther man­i­fest­ed in lov­ing our fel­low human beings.

God’s love is unique and one is made to think: “In spite of my wicked­ness, dis­obe­di­ence, irrev­er­ence for God, why is He still extend­ing His hand to help me? Why is He still wait­ing for me to turn to Him? Why does He still show His mer­cy to us so that we are found alive and breath­ing on this earth? Why???” In a prayer for the Chris­tians at Eph­esus, a town in today’s Turkey, Paul says:

And I pray that you, being root­ed and estab­lished in love, may have pow­er, togeth­er with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that sur­pass­es knowledge—that you may be filled to the mea­sure of all the full­ness of God. (Let­ter to the Eph­esians 3:17b–19)

Tru­ly God’s love sur­pass­es knowl­edge.

Conclusion

Although God and His love are beyond all knowl­edge and under­stand­ing, His love in action is an invi­ta­tion for us to give up our own con­cept of love but instead learn from Him and to prac­tice it. He calls us to have a liv­ing rela­tion­ship with Him in which we long for Him and are eager to do His will instead of fol­low­ing our own desires or ideas. An obe­di­ent response to God’s love also leads us to rec­og­nize the root cause of our sins—the lack of love. The sin­ful world con­nects free­dom and joy with receiv­ing and get­ting much for one­self, as opposed to the love of God which the Bible reveals as self­less ser­vice, devot­ing, and deny­ing one­self for the oth­ers.

God extends His help­ing hand to those who are ready to love by help­ing them be free of their sins and to see what they should do instead of their sin­ful deeds—to love God and there­fore their neigh­bor.

… he asked him, “Of all the com­mand­ments, which is the most impor­tant?” “The most impor­tant one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The sec­ond is this: ‘Love your neigh­bor as your­self.’ There is no com­mand­ment greater than these.” (Gospel of Mark 12:28b–31)

How do you intend to respond to God’s love?

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