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. It’s easy to love people like them.
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. Different nationalities, languages, cultures, and religions—one big melting pot. I quickly realized I have not grasped the concept of Godly love. Here are just a few of the behaviors or attitudes I observed:
- 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. The Apostle James confirms, “Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10).
Perhaps such human ugliness was 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 nastiness break human hearts too. Face it, sin is unlovely.
The Difficulty of Godly Love
I admit to struggling to love unconditionally, perpetually, and fully as God does. Somehow, I do not understand how it is humanly possible. How am I to love people in the following scenarios?
- A manipulative salesperson who, when I kindly refuse, then berates and threatens me
- 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, then 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 countless ways
- Deviants who blatantly toss sexual immorality in my face at every opportunity
- Groups who actively promote their perversion while demanding my acceptance
- Individuals who desecrate what I consider holy and advocate what I consider unholy
- The messes 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 trait of every true follower of Christ (John 13:35). And it goes beyond 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 when I allow 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 I am 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 offense is another opportunity to grow in His grace (2 Peter 3:18). It gives me the occasion to take up His yoke (Matthew 11:29) and surrender to His transforming work. And I do this day by day, until Christ is formed in me (Galatians 4:19). This is the lifelong journey of a Christian.
By His grace and loving transformation, I am learning daily how to become more like Him. It’s a process of learning how to reflect my Heavenly Father’s resemblance. I am able to love others only by His love flowing through me.
Father, may Your perfect love flow through me today.