“…and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:5-8)
It’s such a small word…with such a misunderstood meaning. We use it often without even stopping to think. With the same little word we proclaim our devotion to our family and describe our partiality to our favorite dessert. I am speaking, of course, of the word love.
I still remember the first time I said, “I love you,” to the man who is now my husband. I laugh to myself when I think back on that moment which I had—up until then—pictured as something straight out of the pages of a novel, and which—in reality—consisted of me in my father’s truck with my face pressed against the glass mouthing these words to Isaac—all while my dad tried to get the truck running! But I smile even more as I think about how little I understood then of what those words actually mean. What I meant by those three simple words on that snowy day in early March, is nothing compared to what I mean today as I look my husband in the eyes and say, “I love you.”
Sixteen years later, those words have weight. They’ve been through some valleys. They’ve seen labor and delivery rooms and heard the first cries of babies. They’ve said hello to new homes and goodbye to old friends. They’ve embraced new adventures, and they’ve endured loss. My love today is stronger than I ever could have understood as that young girl sitting in her father’s truck all those years ago.
But have you considered the great love of God? How often do we read of His love for us, speak of it to one another, and even thank Him for it in our prayers? Yet do we stop to truly meditate on the love of this great God who chooses to reveal Himself to His people as the very definition of the word (1 John 4:8)?
J. I. Packer writes, “It is staggering that God should love sinners; yet it is true. God loves creatures who have become unlovely and (one would have thought) unlovable. There was nothing whatever in the objects of His love to call it forth; nothing in us could attract or prompt it.
Love among persons is awakened by something in the beloved, but the love of God is free, spontaneous, unevoked, uncaused. God loves people because He has chosen to love them…and no reason for His love can be given except His own sovereign good pleasure.”
When Paul speaks to the church in Rome of God’s love being poured into their hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5), he is not speaking of their love for God, but rather God’s love for them. And in Ephesians 3, Paul declares,
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father…that you being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (vv. 14, 17-19)
Paul considered it of great importance that these saints come to know in a deeper and stronger way the great love of God for them—and not just these saints, but ALL saints. To know this great love is for every Christian…to know this love of God that expresses itself to us in everything we face—the good and the difficult, to know this love from which we can never be separated (Romans 8:38-39), and to know this love which we have never and will never deserve yet is freely given to us anyway…is as Packer would say, “…indeed heaven on earth.”
To know this love is to be content, regardless of our circumstances. To know this love is be able to face uncertain futures and profound pain because He is with you…and that is enough.
May we pray, as Paul did, that we would comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love for us, and that God would give us the grace needed to do so.