Friday after Ash Wednesday
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, ESV)
The Whole World
God so loved the whole world. It doesn’t say he loved some of the world. It doesn’t say he loved the Christian world. It doesn’t say he loved those who are good and kind in the world. It says that he loved the whole world.
He loves the people you love. He loves your spouse. He loves your kids. He loves your friends. He loves all of those who encourage you and inspire you.
He also loves the people you don’t love. He loves the unlovable. He loves the marginalized. He loves that rude and belligerent co-worker. He loves that relative who always takes, but never gives. He loves those who have hurt you in the past. Whatever the barrier is that prevents you from loving another person, God’s love conquerors that barrier.
We often love the people who have something to offer us in return. On the surface, the starving orphan child in Africa may not have much to offer us. But when we send our support (less than the price of a cup of coffee), it makes us feel good about ourselves. We pat ourselves on the back for being a good person. The orphan child gives us good feelings in return for our love.
It is much more difficult to love the person who would do us harm, shows us no appreciation, cuts us off on the parkway, or talks behind our back. Can we love others when there is a cost involved?
Who do you find difficult to love? Recognize this is the measure of God’s love for you. You have nothing to offer God in return for his love. He does not love you because you are worthy of his love. In fact, it is just the opposite. You don’t deserve God’s love, but he loves you anyway.
The Cost of Love
God is love (1 John 4:8). He is the embodiment of love. To know love is to know God’s love. There are no conditions to God’s love. The most selfless act of love ever demonstrated is the gift of Jesus. Jesus died for each and every sinner, not just the sinners that are a little better than the rest.
Love does not look past sin nor accept it. To ignore sin is not love. We are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Jesus never had a problem confronting sin.
But neither does God condemn us in our sin (John 3:17). Instead, he bears our sin. He dies for our sin. He takes our sin upon himself. There is a cost for our sin, but out of love, he pays the debt that is ours.
If we are to love as God loves, we will not ignore sin. Instead, we will bear the sins of others. There is a sacrifice. There is a cost. We may even be despised for our love. The greatest acts of love are often rejected and chastised.
If we don’t know God’s love, then we don’t know what love is. We can’t give away what we don’t have. If we don’t have God’s love, then we can’t offer true love. True love is to make known God’s love. It is to love as God loved us whatever the cost may be.
Lent is an invitation to immerse ourselves in the love of God. It’s an invitation to embrace the cross. It is to allow ourselves to be swept away into God’s affection. We see there is no distance God will not go. He doesn’t just go the extra mile, he goes all the way. As we are embraced by him, our capacity to embrace others will expand. No sacrifice becomes too great to make known God’s love.
- What are the conditions you attach to love?
- Who do you have difficulty loving? What step can you take to show unconditional love?
- What does it mean to bear the sin of others?