Love is a controversial word these days. "Love is love." "Love wins." "Love is getting a vaccine and wearing a mask." Everybody wants the right to define love and to force everyone else into their definition.
Truth is, that the only One who can define love is the One who created it. Love wasn't our own idea. Humanity didn't come up with it. God is love. He's the One who has shared this aspect of Himself with us.
I grew up in the heyday of evangelicalism. From the time I was a small child, I was taught how much that God loved the lost and dying world. The message was so prevalent and inundated that I began to believe that God loved lost people, but as soon as they knew about Him and were saved, He expected them to give love, but never need it. As soon as a person was "in the club", God’s emphasis shifted from loving them to using them to go get more lost people that He loves. And I was always hesitant to fully implore anyone else to join this “club”. Weren't they better off being loved by God than continually burdened by the shame of never being holy or perfect enough?
I remember as a teenager finally hearing a message about God's great love for me, the one desperate to live for Him. I hardly believed it, and the condemnation that had already been drilled into me quickly stole it away. I wasn't holy enough. I didn't serve enough. I was mean to my siblings. I didn't always obey. God didn't love me. He expected me to do better. Maybe when I was holy and perfect, He'd love me like He loved the lost.
It took years and years for me to heal and be able to actually internalize the love of God. As I did, I began to see the depth, height, and width of it all around me. The more that I understand it, the more that I don't want anything else but the love of God in my life. The more that I experience it, the more that I want no one to live without it.
Every day, all around us, God is drawing us with His love. It is who He is. He cannot be anything else. And His love, though many consider it weak and foolish or hard and uncompromising, is the most powerful force of change on earth.
Maybe you are like I was. Maybe you have trouble seeing His love for you. Maybe the enemy has you so blinded with shame and condemnation that you believe God’s love is for other people.
Or maybe you think God’s love is like your worst authority figure’s. Maybe your view is skewed because someone who was supposed to love you mistreated you. Maybe you are unsure of what love should even look like or you believe it’s always cold and hard “for your own good”.
I’m glad you stopped by today because I want to share with you some ways that God tangibly proves to us what love is.
Jesus. Obviously, this is always number one. "For God so loved the world that He gave His Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." Jn 3:16 "God shows His love toward us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Rom. 5:8. Jesus willingly stepped out of the perfection of Heaven to come walk among broken humans. He allowed Himself to be marginalized, abused, scorned, rejected, and ultimately crucified so that we could find peace with God. He took ALL our shame and He offers us His own pure and clean righteousness in exchange. We can be free, safe, and found completely in His love because of Jesus.
The Holy Spirit. As if it wasn't enough for Him to offer salvation to sinful humans, He also gave us a full inheritance in Heaven with a down payment on it here on earth. If He didn't love us, He might have saved us just to have little minions on earth that were indebted to Him. He could have barely let us into Heaven and made us His slaves. Instead, He calls us sons and daughters. He freely gives us His Spirit to live inside of us...to help us...to heal us. This Spirit inside of us is proof that we are His children and will one day inherit all of Heaven.
His Word. God created the world and then He set to work sending us instructions on how all of it works. The Bible isn't just a book God gave us to read to keep Him happy. "These are not just idle words for you...they are your life..." Deut 32:47a. The Bible is a manual for a successful life. It's “how to succeed at life” the way God created it to be. He could have left us here to figure it out on our own and watched us as we failed. He could have left a few vague instructions. "Pray about it." "Trust Me." "Love God and love others." "Don't sin." Instead, He gave us a whole, entire book.
Rules and Boundaries. How do rules and boundaries show love? Don't they limit freedom? Actually, rules and boundaries protect freedom. What if this country didn't have laws? What if you could come here and just do whatever you wanted? No one would be free for very long; we would be terrorized by evil. Rules and boundaries keep evil from overtaking our lives. Any good parent will set them for their child. Otherwise, that child might play in the street or touch a hot stove or stay up all night or never get an education. God is the best Father there is, and He loves us so much that He doesn't want us to be destroyed by sin.
Rest and Emotions. God isn't a work-aholic. He shows us from the very beginning that there is a time to rest. He set up His week of work to include one day entirely focused on rest. Not because He ever gets tired, but because rest is glorifying to Him. If we don't honor rest, we will soon find our work ineffective. He also created us with emotions. Feeling is a gift. We get to feel pleasure, happiness, sadness, grief, anger, and fear. He could have made us all completely rational and numb. But instead He gave us emotions, and while they shouldn’t control us, they are part of the “good” of being human.
Creation and Variety. If you ever go outside and pay attention to nature, you will understand better the love of God. God could have made one season. He could have made one type of grass and one type of water. He could have left out the flowers and the ridiculous variety of animals. He didn’t have to create glorious landscapes and breathtaking sunsets. He could have made everything barely survivable and plain. But He didn't. Nature screams of God's love, care, and compassion for people. He isn't boring. He isn't prejudiced. He isn't self-centered. He created beauty in variety for our enjoyment. He created to show us that we can trust Him. He created to love us.
Humans. He also created the body that you currently inhabit. Think about it for a minute. All of it works together to keep you existing on this earth. Right now, you are breathing without having to think about it. Your heart is beating without any help from you. Your mind is reading these words, taking them in, and recording them. You are an incredible work of art. If that weren't enough, you have hormones that help you love and bond. God gave you an inbuilt system just for love and happiness. He could have left that out. He gave us different personalities and different preferences. He even gave us taste buds so we could not just survive on our food, but enjoy it.
Food and Medicine. When God created the world, He created it with every provision for the human body. The foods that grow out of this earth are still the best ones for our health. And they aren't few in number. Think of the variety of vegetables and fruits that we all eat on a daily basis. Flour, sugar, spices, herbs, coffee, chocolate, legumes...all of these come from things that are grown. Even our refined and chemical laden foods use ingredients that are grown on earth. And before we had labs full of people experimenting with chemicals to create medicines, food was medicine. The body is created to heal itself, and God gave plenty of provision to support that healing. Modern medicine is a gift, and thank God He made us with inventive minds, but every bit of foundational supply and concept is from Him.
Marriage and Family. God could have easily said, "I am enough for you." He didn't have to create marriage or the family unit. He didn't have to make procreation pleasurable or raising children joyful. He could have let us be lonely. After all, doesn't that make us more dependent on Him? Instead, He said “It isn’t good for man to be alone.” He made marriage and family to be the safe place for growing and training new humans. This is the foundation of His design and exactly why the enemy is always working so hard to infiltrate and obliterate it.
Body of Christ and Relationships. As people made in God’s image, we have a need for relational connection. We can't do life alone. He designed us to be in community and to give and receive love. It was never meant to be "Just me and Jesus". When you love Jesus, you get His whole entire family. You can be sure that if you have a strong desire to isolate yourself, it isn't from God. It's from the enemy who wants to get you alone like he did Eve in the Garden. God gave us each other, and until we come off of our thrones of spirituality and sit in the messy gift of community, we can’t truly know Jesus. This is His love. It is always communicating “You are not alone.” “You are not too broken.” “You are not the only one who struggles.” “You don’t have to be perfect to be perfectly loved.”
Y'all, I thought of so many more ways that God proves what love is to us while I was writing this, but I'd be going on all day, and you're trying to get back to all the other things you have to do. I pray that as you have read this, you have started to get a picture of the height, depth, and breadth of God's love for YOU. Yes, He loves everyone else like that too, but He loves YOU.
You are just as valuable to God as anyone on earth.
You are just as worthy of the space you take up as the people around you.
You are just as called to use your gifts as anyone else that you admire.
You are just as loved...fully and completely...as any other person who has ever existed on this earth.
If you struggle with this concept, you will also struggle to love God. We can only love because He first loved us. If we don't know, understand, and believe His love at the core of who we are and what we do, we are getting it wrong. This is so important to the healing and wholeness of who we are. Don't overlook it in favor of a checklist that you believe pleases God. He's obviously not a checklist God. He wants more. He wants your heart.