Saturday, March 19, 2011

God is Love

1 Corinthians 13
 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I didn’t really set out to start a series here, but after last week’s talk about what God hates, I wanted to look at another part of His nature: God is love.

There’s a song by Jeremy Riddle called “Furious” that describes the love of God like this:
  His Love is deep, His Love is wide, and it covers us
  His Love is fierce, His Love is strong, it is furious
  His Love is sweet, His love is wild, and it’s waking our hearts to life

God’s love is limitless. There’s no point where His love runs out. 1 Corinthians 13:8 tells us that love never fails. That’s the ‘agape’ love, the love He has for each of us, and that John is talking about when he tells us “Beloved, let us love one another.” (1 John 4:7)

Just a few verses before, in 1 Corinthians 13 4-7, Paul lists a series of characteristics of love. This list is often recited at weddings, but it’s not just talking about romantic love, it’s talking about the agape love. I’ve heard that a good barometer for judging where you are is to insert your own name into the list. “Matt is patient, Matt is kind…” and see how well you measure up. But everything Paul says about love applies to God, because God is love. (I freely admit now, some of these worked out a lot better than others. Don’t get me wrong, all are true, I just had an easier time explaining some of them so they made sense.)

God is patient.
We’ve mentioned that God is a God of second chances. (And someone will invariably start adding “and third, and fourth…”) He sees the best in us. He wants us to succeed, and as long as we’re willing to pick ourselves back up, He’s willing to give us more opportunities to do so.

God is kind.
I’ve heard God described by some who are disillusioned with the church as ‘sky bully.’ Even we as Christians have this idea that God’s going to smite us if we step out of line. But He’s not like that at all. His mercy endures forever. It outlasts all of our pity parties or rebellious streaks. There’s nothing that will separate us from His love.

God does not envy.
He owns the cattle of a thousand hills and paves His streets with gold. Who does He have to be envious of?

God does not boast, He is not proud.
Even after creating everything that exists, He simply responds with ‘it is good.’ We even see in Genesis 2:18 that God isn’t ashamed to say “I can do better” when there’s more to be done.

He does not dishonor others.
We always see God giving words of encouragement. Even when He’s delivering bad news, there’s some sort of hope attached.

He is not self-seeking.
God doesn’t look out for Himself. Simply put, He’s perfection – he doesn’t need looking out for. Instead, He watches out for us. Encouraging, guiding, sometimes disciplining, but always for good cause.

He is not easily angered.
See above, where we talked about ‘patient’ and ‘kind.’ Even where we see God’s wrath enacting, it was a reaction to long standing circumstances, and after numerous warnings.

He keeps no record of wrongs.
When we take our shortcomings to God, He casts them into the sea of forgetfulness and remembers them no more. There’s another song, this one by The Waiting, called “How Do You Do That?” The bridge goes:
  You know the hairs on my head, and You named every star
  But I’m bowing my knee at how forgetful You are
It’s not that God forgets all this stuff like we forget where we put our keys. No, God chooses to forget. When we give it to Him, it’s like it doesn’t even exist anymore. 
God does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.
God’s holiness cannot abide evil, and He Himself is the truth.

He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Our God is forever faithful.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the gold standard in love. The highest bar that could ever be set. On our own, we have no hope of measuring up. But here’s the best part, we can let God love through us, and that’s when we’re at our best.

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