We can experience different types of love throughout our lifetime. The love we have for our parents, siblings and other family members, the love we have for our friends, our significant other, then the love for your children and grandchildren.
Love is often portrayed on TV and in movies as this fairy-tale idea that makes you weak at the knees and can make you do crazy and out of character things. Although they may not be the best point of reference, they have one thing right. Love can be very powerful.
Of course, we also see how love can be misunderstood, the true meaning lost in our world today. And we can also sadly see many people have received the total opposite of love whilst being told it is the very reason for that person’s actions. It has been used as a cover for causing pain and suffering. Which means many people find it hard to accept true and genuine love because of what they have experienced in the past. The love they know is not one they would welcome again.
Throughout the Bible we see the greatest examples of love from love himself.
Yes, God does not simply love, he is love.
“But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”1 John 4:8 (NLT)
“God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.”1 John 4:16 (NLT)
What we are talking about is not a shallow love, but an unconditional, sacrificial, and radical love. This is how God loves us.
GOD’S LOVE IS UNCONDITIONAL.
Often when we love someone there is a reason behind it. I love him because…. I love her because… there is a reason, a condition for that love. God doesn’t love that way. In fact, if his love were conditional, we couldn’t receive it. God’s love is unconditional, meaning that nothing can change how he feels about us. His love is not something we earn, not something he keeps from some and lavishes on others.
“For this is how God loved the world; He gave his one and only son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”John 3:16 (NLT)
Does that mean God loves everything we do? No, of course not. In fact, his deep love for us means an equally deep hatred towards sin because of what it does to us, how it separates us from him, how it causes us pain, how it can be damaging to us and ultimately how it brings hatred, selfishness, and greed into the world.
But our sin does not affect his love for us.
GOD’S LOVE IS SACRIFICIAL.
The truth is, we are selfish beings. We find it easy to think about ourselves and put ourselves first in everything we do. It’s simple to do the things we want to do without taking into consideration anyone else. However, if we want to have any type of relationship with another person, we can’t act this way, especially if we say we love them. Loving someone means being willing to put their needs and wants above your own, it means keeping nothing back from one another.
God loves sacrificially, he held nothing back from us. Not even his own son.
“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us.”1 John 3:16 (NLT)
Jesus left heaven and all the glory he deserved to be born into the humble life of a carpenter.
He sacrificed his time to teach, whether that was the disciples or for the crowds of people who wanted to hear from him. He sacrificed his time for others, to eat with them when no one else thought them worthy (Zacchaeus, Luke 19), he went out of his way to meet with the most unlikely people after which their lives were totally changed (Woman at the well, John 4) and never rushed away from people who needed him (Woman with the issue of blood, Luke 8:43-48).
In the Garden of Gethsemane, we see how he so quickly sacrificed his own will for the will of God the father, Luke 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine”.
And finally, we see how he sacrificed his own life, being punished, and dying on the cross whilst he did nothing wrong, for us.
God held nothing back from us, giving us his only son, and Jesus held nothing back, he sacrificed everything, even down to his own life, so that we could be forgiven for our sin. That’s how much he loves us.
GOD’S LOVE IS RADICAL.
We have seen the power in truly and genuinely loving people. We saw that through Jesus’ example of how he loved as he was here on earth.
It is not a weakness, in fact, it is a great strength.
It is powerful.
It has the ability to change a situation and a person’s life.
It is not easy, but entirely worth it.
God’s love knows no boundaries and isn’t limited. This makes it radical because his love drives him to go beyond what we would expect, what our cultural ‘norms’ would be.
As Paul states in Romans 5:7
“Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners”.Romans 5:7 (NLT)
It really was radical what God did for us. But imagine if we were all able to love in that way.
“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honouring each other”.Romans 12:9 (NLT)
If we were able to get past this surface level love, not just for those in our families, not just for our friends, but for others, for our neighbours, for our church families, people in our local community, and even the strangers we meet on the street. If we could love them as God loved us, we would see a radical difference in the world around us. If we were able to love others the way that God loves us, it would be powerful.
Will we always receive thanks? Will people appreciate it? Maybe not, but again look at the example of Jesus. He spent his life on earth loving and serving others, and people still plotted and planned to have him arrested and killed. Then on the cross he died to provide an opportunity for people to have their sins forgiven, many of which would go on to reject him.
Did that change how he treated them or how he loved them? No.
Just as God’s love isn’t conditional, either should ours. Our love for another person shouldn’t be determined by how they live or how they treat us. That’s what makes it radical. Our love should be sacrificial, can we go out of our way to help other people, to offer what we can to those who need it the most, to sit and listen to people who just need to talk things out. In doing these things, we too would be able to love radically.
But how do we get there?
“As we live in God, our love grows more perfect.”1 John 4:17 (NLT)
The truth is, the more we love God, the more intimately and deeply we know him, the more his love will overflow from us. The easier it will be to radically love others. After all, when we have love himself within us, it should not stop with us.
Written by Erin Thompson