“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:10-11 ESV
We have all heard, time and time again, the passage in 1 Corinthians 13 that speaks of love. Even unbelievers know it well. Passages such as this one are found in cards, wedding ceremonies, and Instagram captions galore; but how often do we stop and think about what love actually means? How often do we hold ourselves accountable for the love that we bestow—or neglect to bestow—on other people? And how often do we recognize how incredible it is that the God of the universe loves us at all in the first place?
I will freely admit that I’ve struggled all my life with the concept of love, especially the love of God. Love has always seemed like something that I must chase or earn or live up to. When I hear a Scripture passage or a person tell me that God loves me, I can’t help but balk. Why would God love me? Why would a perfect, holy, infinite, limitless Creator look on me—a wretched, obnoxious, unfaithful human being—with interest, let alone affection?
There are moments in my life when the gospel feels distant, unreachable, hindered in some way by my shame and my inherent fallibility. I can’t see the beauty and glory of God sometimes. And when I don’t trust His love, it becomes really hard to exhibit it to people around me.
The thing about God’s love that should humble, convict, and enthrall us, however, is that we don’t have to earn it. We couldn’t even if we tried (and if you’re like me, you’ve probably attempted it with no small amount of frustration). What makes His love so beautiful and worthy of imitating is that we don’t deserve it at all. He does not owe it to us. We cannot persuade Him into it. Love is what He is even before it manifests in what He does. And we should strive to follow His example every day of the year.
Father, I can’t understand all of the depths and heights and magnitudes of Your love, but I do want to know and believe that You love me. I need Your help to love others in even a fraction of the way that You do. Humble me and convict me. Open my eyes to the ways in which I can better love other, especially those who are hard to love or who I feel don’t deserve it. I praise and thank You that You don’t love me for anything I have done, but that Your love is an act of grace and an outpouring of who You are.
Simply take the time right now to write out some ways that you can show unconditional love to the people God has put in your life, and then act on them. Remember that love is not just a noun, but a verb as well.