“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” – I John 4:8 (NIV)
We can look at this one verse and it simply is the verse of all verses when reading about love. It doesn’t get more basic than that – “God is love”.
I am a visual learner. If I can see it then I am more apt to remember and have it stick. When I visualize this verse, it reminds me of being in elementary school learning basic equations. That may have been a long time ago now but it is math we use every day, such as 1 + 1 = 2 and 10 + 10 = 20. If you take the basic mathematics we learned back then and apply it to this verse, we come up with God = Love! No “plus” sign needed. What does that mean? It means that there is good news! The pressure is off of me and the pressure is off you. There is nothing that needs to be added to the equation to equal love. Nothing has to be done on our part for there to be Love. God is love.
It’s not God + us doing = Love
It’s not God + Religion = Love
It’s not God + Righteousness = Love
It’s just God = Love
“But God shows his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8 (ESV)
When you read that same verse from the Message version it says, “God put his love on the line for us.” The saying “on the line for us” is frequently used in sports broadcasting. You may have heard journalists say, “Oh, did you see that! He put it all on the line when he took that shot!” That is what God did for us. He put it all on the line. He laid out His best hand and gave us His only Son in exchange for our sins. It’s a gamble but He still put it all on the line for us – for you!
When reading the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15, the son was literally eating with the pigs before beginning his journey home. He must have been filthy – covered in dirt, manure, and pig slop. By the time he would have reached the drive to his father’s home, the dirt would have been caked on to his clothing and body. The stench would have been overwhelming. Not only did he smell bad but we can only imagine what his appearance would have been. The prodigal son was a hot mess. But His Father did not care! When his son came home, his father didn’t tell him, “Go get in the shower first you smell! And when you are all cleaned up, look presentable, smell good then I will embrace you.” Or say to him, “You need a hair-cut and please brush your teeth then we can celebrate.” No, the father had the servants bring the finest robes and his ring to put on him. The clothes were given to him as he was, covered in dirt and all. Then they went and killed the calf to prepare it for the feast. Nothing was done on the son’s part. He came as he was – dirty and unpleasant looking. They didn’t wait for him to get ready before the party began. They didn’t expect him to look or dress a certain way. They started the party while he was a hot mess and his father loved him just as he was.
His love is not conditional. It’s not conditional on us or our actions. God is Love. He loves because He is love.
Growing up I was an awkward teenager, permed hair, big bangs, glasses and yes, even braces. Yet, in the midst of total awkwardness and bad parachute pants choices, my parents reminded me daily, “Lauren, you are beautiful.” I remember thinking to myself, “They have to say that, they are my parents.” Or when I puts on a new dress or outfit and turn to my husband and ask the question that all husbands dread hearing, “Honey, does this make me look fat?” With a quick response, “No way, you look amazing!” We may have felt that they said those things because they had to out of obligation. After all, they are our parents or our spouse – they have to say that.
Have we put that thought process on for God’s love for us?
“Oh it’s God, He has to love us,” we say to ourselves and next thing you know, we have downgraded the love that God has for us. God chooses to love us. If you are reading this blog today, God wants you to know that He chose and continues to choose to love you!
And “why” you ask. Why does he still love us? It is because God is love. God = Love.
At this point you might be saying, “Ok I get it, God is love.” But how do I know God loves me? If you read
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 (NIV)
God shows love by giving. And not just any gift, but the gift of His only son – a sacrificial gift. All we have to do is accept it. I don’t know why we find this so hard to do. We continue to think that there is something we have to do to earn His love and earn this gift, when really all we have to do is accept.
A Christmas many years ago I had requested a very specific doll. All of my 8-year-old friends were getting the doll and I just had to have her. On Christmas Eve, there was a big box under the tree and when it was my turn to open my gifts, I went straight for the big box. I didn’t even get it half way un-wrapped when I realized that it was my doll. There is a picture somewhere in my parent’s garage of me having a total girl freak out moment jumping up and down excited about this doll.
Now let’s journey back and try to remember that one gift you had asked for but you weren’t sure if you would get. The gift that when you opened it, you literally started jumping up and down with excitement. There may have been some screaming and dancing – you won’t confirm nor deny it – but you were so excited about the gift. Do you remember the gift?
Now that you remember, what did you do next? Did you turn to your parents and say, “I can’t accept this”? Or, “I don’t deserve gifts this year, mom and dad.” No, you pulled that gift out of the box as quickly as possible and forgot about any other presents under the tree because you were so excited about that one gift!
What if we started accepting God’s love that way? What would that look like? What if we stopped running from the one person that always has and always will love us, regardless of our shortcomings?
I encourage you today to do one simple thing – hold out your hands and accept! Its simple basic mathematics, God = Love. You are loved and you are accepted just as you are. Now all you have to do is receive.