The Calm, Crazy, Whirlwind of Love - By Charles Fox
Read 1 John 4:7-21 and John 3:16 3 times, slowly.
As soon as we say the word, love, we find ourselves, metaphorically, on a rickety rope bridge swinging and creaking wildly in a tempestuous wind, dangerously high above treacherous rocks of meaning. We all think we know where we are, and despite the danger, we feel that simple calm and confidence; love is so familiar. We all know what love is, surely. It is stamped into our DNA so securely that, when we were young, we would ask, “How do you know love when you see it?” The answer is always the same, “Oh, yoU’LL know…”
And we do, kinda. Love is a feeling and a commitment, a force and a goal. When we’re “in it,” love makes our knees weak, or strong, depending on the situation. We become heroic, or bashful; silly or serious or forgiving. Love somehow breaks us and re-makes us, wherever it takes us. It generates more poems and songs and purpose and confusion than even our pets or our cars. We know with confidence from some mystical feeling that the Beatles were right, love really is all we need, or, for a song reference with far too many artists to mention; love does make the world go round.
The irony of the lyrics to these sappy songs is that, for a Christian, these largely superficial sentiments ring true in Jesus Christ. Since God is Love, love truly is all we need, and since Jesus is God, love actually does make the world, indeed, the entire universe, go ‘round. The rest of the irony, however, is that apart from God, love is confusing and difficult to define and understand. Of course, confusion is not God’s purpose, because love is central to who he is and at the core of his plan.
So, it is no surprise that for something so critical, God has a lot to say. Love is at the very core of the eternal, triune relationship (More on that in a future blog), such that, when God decides, together, to create and sustain an entire history of the cosmos, love explodes from within the Godhead and washes over every aspect of that story. In many ways, love is the why of everything God does for us. (Footnote: His own glory could also be used as the why of everything he does.) How do we know this?
There are three ways that God reveals love to us.
First, God demonstrates love in all he does. When you open the Bible, you see what God does. Every action is that of a loving father with his treasured children. The list of ways that he does this is endless, because every action he takes is an act of love. He walked with Adam and Eve, then disciplined them, banishing them from the garden. He called and protected Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their families, and their descendents; the judges, Saul, David, Solomon, and Ezekiel, Isaiah, Hosea - everyone of his children. He listens to prayers, delivers from distress; heals, guides, teaches. He also punishes, disciplines, reconciles and restores. Every single action of God is ultimately a model of what love looks like in action. There is no better way to see what love looks like than to see everything that God does.
Second, God defines love over and over in his word. The passages abound. He tells us the characteristics of love and how to recognize it clearly. He tells us what love is, and what it isn’t. In his word, we learn why love has power and how to wield it for the good of others. Stay tuned, we are going to wade into many passages that will threaten to drown us.
Third, God incarnates love in Jesus Christ. Although I mention this last, it is by far the first in priority. It is no stretch to say that Jesus is the perfect expression of love, because Christ’s incarnation is how God chose to show us his love; a love that for us in the loftiest, most profound, and most intimate possible expression. And wonder of wonders; the eternal, triune love that Jesus has for us is best experienced through personal relationship as we are united to God through faith in Jesus. This is why John 3:16 is so precious to the church, God so loved the world that he gave his son. Wow! Suddenly, Love makes sense, but when held in contrast, this true love of God demolishes every other lesser concept of love.
Our passage from first John is a warehouse of content regarding love, but for now, we need to cook up two concepts from the passage and season it with a few other familiar ideas. Verse 11: Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another, and verse 19, We love because he first loved us. These two verses simmer in the pot and we are led to two inescapable conclusions. First, God wants us to love others the way that HE loves others (and us, by the way.) Second, God is the source of that love. The seasonings for this verse-stew are the two Great Commandments and loving our enemies. We must love God first (heart, soul, mind, strength). We must love our neighbors as ourselves. We must love our enemies.
This is a high calling. Love everyone the way God does.
Let’s cut to the chase. What is Love? What is God’s Love? What characterizes the love that God demonstrates, defines, and incarnates? What is the nature of the love we need to hold for everyone?
Here goes: God’s love is fervent, sacrificial, purposeful, gracious, expressive, bold, and covenantal. That is AgapeStorm. That is the challenge. We will begin to tuck in to this feast in the next blog.