William J. Stewart
Ironically, and very sadly, the most powerful word known to man is also the most misused and misunderstood. If we could only grasp the meaning and the fullness of this term, and then allow its power to reign over our lives, all wars would cease. Homelessness would be a thing of the past. Greed would be non-existent. Evil would have no choice but to succumb to its force. What word could be so mighty and influential — LOVE.
Love is such a huge word for only having four letters. To some it means sexual fulfillment. To others, it is simply a word that you use when with kin. Still others relate it to the ‘pining for’ feeling that overcomes us when we ‘love’ some material good. But to those who truly comprehend it, it is a way of life. Those who sincerely understand it find it to be the source of salvation. John writes, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
No doubt, this is the most popular verse within the Scriptures. People that have no clue concerning who this Jesus of Nazareth is are able to recite it. They can quote it word for word, but they cannot understand it. Unfortunately, many who believe in Christ, and claim to know Him do not understand it either. Why? Because they do not understand what love is.
Paul writes, “…God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The nature of love calls forth. Do you see it? God shows us the ‘how to’ of love. Somehow, we have developed the idea that the words ‘I love you’ are evidence of love. But God shows us that love is not love until it is shown. God did not say that he loved us; He demonstrated it. John records, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” John is not telling us to avoid saying the words, ‘I love you,’ but rather that if we are going to say the words, we’d better have the deeds to follow it up. Love is not love until it is shown! Love is an action word, therefore, it demands action of us. John says, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us…” We know love, because God demonstrated it.
When one thinks about the cross, one must ask, “Why did the Father allow it?” Why would the Creator willingly allow His only Son to die for the creation? Why would He sacrifice the Just for the unjust? How was the Father able to offer up His Son to die on a cross for things that He did not do? The answer, “For God so loved the world…” Think about that. The writer did not say He did it because He loved the righteous. His intent was not that of giving His Son for those who were good. He loved the world.
He loved the vile and the wicked. People who opposed what is right, and practiced what is wrong. Those who walk about fulfilling the lusts of the flesh. The prostitute on the street corner. The drug dealer in the shadows. the drug addict laying in the gutter. The murderer serving his sentence. You and I. He loved the unlovable. Those made cold and calloused by the shackles of sin. Those who were furthest from Him, He loved.
Again, we ask the question, “Why did He do it?” Using our human wisdom, the question remains unanswered. Love? Yes, love. But why, why did He love us? Employing our own discerning abilities, we are at a loss. There is no reason. Search as you might, you will find no logical reason why God ought to love man. Man transgressed the law of God and is deserving of judgment. Man turned his back on God, as a rebellious child on his father. Man committed treason of the highest degree, and is worthy of his just reward — death.
But if we step back and view it through His eyes, the picture becomes clear. Love to the human mind seems to be inadequate, but to the mind of God, it is all sufficient. Why? John writes, “…God is love.” Why was love enough of a motive? Because it is who He is. Still, to our carnal minds, we are bewildered. Love? Yes, love. Take a moment to read 1 Corinthians 13. Therein is the nature of love. Therein is the character of God. Therein it is revealed to us why love is enough to cause the Lord to give us His only Son. “For God so loved the world…”
Again, the question sounds forth, this time, “Why did the Son go through with it?” Why would the King of kings and Lord of lords become the servant of all? Why did this innocent Man from Galilee silently hang on a tree? Why did God become flesh, dwell among us, and die for us? Why? Jesus spoke, “I and My Father are one.” Jesus says, ‘we are the same.’ God is love. Jesus is love personified. He is Love in the flesh. Love rang out from each step He took. Love sounded from His mouth each time He opened it. In all things, Jesus was the fullness of love.
Jesus declared, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” No greater love is there than that which has been bestowed upon us by God. Jesus loved us with the love of a close friend, sacrificing Himself for us. Ask Him how deeply He loves sinners, and He gives the answer by stretching His arms out on a cross and dying for us. The Father loves us so, that He gladly receives us back as children, though we had walked as prodigal children for so long. The father loved us so, that He gave His faithful Child, that we might become faithful children through Him.
Truly, “…God so loved the world…”