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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Greatest Love

 Darkness is often associated with death, and I do believe that there is a dying that occurs when we choose to cut ourselves off from the love we could receive if we would keep the door open. Love, be it human or Divine, is considered to be a sort of life-blood for the human soul. We cannot survive, in a sense, without it. In its absence, we become sick and hopeless, and the soul begins to die in its own misery. We all want love. More so, we all need it! But sadly, many have never experienced what true love is. 
 Contrary to popular belief, love is not an emotion or a feeling but a commitment. It isn't the short-lived beating of the heart that, when gone, demands the severing of relationships. Real love survives anything. Because here's the thing: real love comes from God. We are only able to understand this when we recognize that God is the source, the model, for the love that we humans are granted. John 15:13 says:

"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down
his life for his friends."

 The heart of love is an unselfish one. Love is not meant to meet one's own needs but the needs of another. In no greater way was this demonstrated than when the God of the Universe came to earth in human form (John 3:16) to accomplish the redemption of what had gone so wrong in the Garden of Eden (Romans 15:18). His love for mankind drove Him to lay down His own life, to sacrifice Himself in the cruelest death, for the salvation of their souls (1 John 4:10). His love paid the ultimate price: His love forgave their sins. 
 I remember distinctly when this truth finally became real to me. Even after growing up in a loving home and attending church every week, the depth of God's love for me never sunk in. What a sobering thought it was to realize that when the mighty Redeemer hung on the cross (John 19:1-30), He looked out across the centuries and saw me: a sinful individual, walking in my own darkness - and laid down His life for me anyway, not because I deserved it but because His love was that strong! My salvation and redemption were important enough to Him to bleed for me even when I didn't know Him or want Him in my life (John 1:11-12). When I saw this amazing demonstration of Divine favor and intervention, the idea of love took on a completely new perspective. 
 I have come to see and know that most of us...all of us, in miserably at this loving business. We expect God to love us, and us to love God, in the same way we relate to each other. If we stop to think about it, it is impossible to expect fallen and fallible human beings to love with a love that only God can give. Unlike us, God cannot cease to love those He has set His affection on (Jeremiah 31:3). His love never fails, never grows cold, never ends. None of us did anything to merit this love - He offers it to any broken soul who will receive it. And here's the crazy part: by resting in and accepting that love, we are enabled to love others in like manner, to pass on what we have mercifully received. 
 Sadly, many have experienced a failure in this kind of love. Love has always been conditional: 
"I'll love you if..."  

or perhaps love has come across as a lie: 

"I love you, but my actions tell a different story..." 

The ability to understand love is not something we are automatically born with. It is taught to us and, unfortunately, not always in the right way. Thus, it is imperative that we be exposed to the greatest love imaginable: that of the Savior of mankind. Despite whatever love has been withheld from you in the past, Christ stands ready to give you something different. As it says in 1 John 4:9-10:

"God showed how much he loved us by sending his only son
into this wicked world to bring us to eternal life through his
death. In this act we see what real love is: it is not our love 
for God, but his love for us when he sent his son to satisfy
God's anger against our sins."

We will never be able to earn such a love. Nothing we do can ever make us look good in the sight of God. We can't even explain or comprehend such favor. This love "surpasses knowledge" (Ephesians 3:19). And yet, this unfailing affection, revealed to us through grace, can become ours if we dare to open up our hands and accept, not only the gift of love, but more importantly, the One who gives it.