I do not understand God’s love.

Mind you, I deeply appreciate it and revel in its favor. However, when faced with “God so loved the world,” I struggle.

My hesitation is not with the Mother Teresa or Billy Graham personalities of humanity. Their decency, graciousness, and selflessness demonstrate God’s love in understandable and reciprocal methods.

Even Christ’s sacrificial love is almost comprehensible. He wanted to span the gap caused by human sinfulness and reconcile us to Himself. Yet, the cruelty and “hostility from sinners” (Hebrews 12:3) He endured stretches the limits of human comprehension. Offering an unconditional “Father, forgive them” is only possible on the heels of a surrendered “Not My will but Thine be done.” Even understanding unconditional love quite often leads to taking it for granted.

The Necessity of Godly Love

On a recent international trip, I experienced intense interaction with masses of people of different nationalities, languages, cultures and religions. While there, it became acutely apparent I have not grasped the concept of Godly love. Some of the behaviors or attitudes I observed included:

  • Rudeness, disrespect, selfishness and disregard
  • Disbelief, apathy and blasphemy
  • Cowardice, stealing, lying and manipulation
  • Name-calling, threatening, cursing and racism
  • Religious ritualism, moral relativism and spiritual apathy
  • Ogling (adultery), filthiness and sexual perversion
  • Impatience, anger and pride

Now, before you think I am judging others self-righteously, please understand I am also guilty. To confirm this, the Apostle James says, “Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10).

Perhaps such accumulation of ugliness was partly why Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Undoubtedly, He weeps over other cities too—even yours and mine. Yes, He loves us; yet our sin breaks His heart. Understandably, sin and its associated nastiness breaks human hearts too. Face it, sin is unlovely.

The Difficulty of Godly Love

From a personal perspective, I admit to struggling to love unconditionally, perpetually, and fully as God does. I do not understand how it is humanly possible. How am I to love:

  • Someone who is manipulative when selling his products, then, when I kindly refuse, berates me and threatens to run me out of his place of business?
  • Men who ogle my wife head to toe, when as a man, I know what thoughts they are entertaining?
  • People who willfully reject Jesus Christ and throw themselves on the altars of paganism and legalism?
  • Perverts who violate, abuse and murder innocent children—yes, even from conception?
  • Leaders—secular, political and religious—who abuse their authority in myriad ways?
  • Deviants who blatantly toss sexual immorality in my face at every opportunity, actively promoting their perversion while demanding my acceptance?
  • Individuals who desecrate what I consider holy and advocate what I consider unholy?
  • The masses who shove, push, cut ahead, holler, curse, mock, and interact without even the slightest common courtesy?

Yet, that very love is what Jesus commanded. He said, “Love one another” (John 13:34). Christlike love is the distinguishing characteristic of every authentic follower of Christ (John 13:35). And it supersedes loving only fellow Christians. It includes loving the unlovely, unloving, and seemingly unlovable. After all, God loves me when I am unlovely, unloving, and unlovable.

The Availability of Godly Love

So how is it humanly possible to love others as God loves them?

It isn’t. Not humanly.

Loving as God loves is only possible by allowing Him to supernaturally love others through me. This happens by allowing His incomprehensible, unconditional, and perpetual love to permeate every aspect of my life (heart, mind, soul, and strength). Additionally, it involves surrendering my will to His in every instance. Even when in the right, He calls me to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39).

I may not understand God’s love and fail it numerous times each day. Yet, each instance of real or perceived offense is an opportunity to grow in His grace (2 Peter 3:18), take up His yoke (Matthew 11:29), and surrender to His transforming work until Christ is formed in me (Galatians 4:19).

By His grace and loving transformation, I am learning daily how to become more like Him. It’s a journey of learning how to reflect my Heavenly Father’s resemblance. Only by His love flowing through me am I able to love others.