“God is love, so He must support all kinds of love.”
“I can do whatever I want because God will still love me.”
“If God loves me, then why did He allow this terrible thing to happen to me?”
I’m sure you have heard (or said) one of these statements before. People—yes, even Christians—are generally confused about God’s love.
What is the first picture that comes to your mind when you think of love? Maybe you think of a romance movie, a dramatic Shakespeare play, or a mother coddling her toddler. Or maybe your first thought is of a memory that is special to you, where you feel secure and happy. Whatever you think love is, put it aside for a minute and try to embrace with fresh understanding the true nature of God’s love.
The problem is that we think human love and God’s love are one in the same. Thus, we expect God to accept our sin, coddle us, and keep us from the scary things of this world. When He doesn’t love us the way we think He should, we feel betrayed and doubt His goodness. As my pastor says, we forget that God’s love is not like grandma’s love. God’s love is just.
Think of the story in John 11 about the death of Lazarus. Christ could have prevented Lazarus from dying and he could have saved Mary and Martha from the pain of loss. But He didn’t. In fact, after hearing that His dear friend Lazarus was gravely ill, Jesus “stayed two days longer in the place where he was” (v.6). As a little student in Sunday school, I always asked the question, “why?” The people in John 11 mourning Lazarus asked the same thing (v.37). If Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters, why did He allow them to experience this pain?
You may already know that John 11 contains the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept” (v.35). I have heard many preachers use this verse as an illustration of Christ’s humanity and love for us, and rightly so. But, once again, as a little child learning about this story in Sunday school, I wondered why. After all, Christ knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. So why did Jesus weep?
Jesus wept because He cared for Mary and Martha and was deeply concerned about their lack of faith. Like any person would do after losing a brother, both sisters blamed Jesus for not coming in time to save Lazarus (v.21,32). They did not believe that Jesus had the power to raise Lazarus, especially since he had been dead for four days. According to Jewish belief, the soul had already left permanently. This is an example of Christ’s just love. He did not do what Mary and Martha wanted Him to do, which was heal their brother. Instead, He did what glorified God, “so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (v.4).
God always loves us according to His sovereign plan, which is always the best for us. His love for us is not accepting of our sin nor according to our preconceptions. He did not heal Lazarus because He knew that raising him from the dead was part of God’s plan, both for Christ Himself, as well as for the faith of Mary, Martha, and the Jews. He loves us in the same way.
God’s love is a just love. It is not tolerant of sin and it does not resemble the love of your grandmother. It is reckless, consistent, and good. We cannot understand it, nor do we deserve it. The only reason that we can enjoy God’s sovereign love is because of Christ’s sacrifice. Christ took all of the wrath God has toward our sin, and left compassion and acceptance of us as people, apart from our sin.
Thus, God is love, but does not accept twisted and unbiblical human “love.”
God will always love you, but will not tolerate your sin.
God might allow some hardships to befall you, but it is all part of His perfect and loving plan.
If you are doubting God’s love in your life, remember that He does not love like we do. He loves by doing what is best for us and what will best glorify Him. He loves by allowing us to fellowship with Him despite our imperfections, because of Christ’s sacrifice.
This compels us to ask the question: “how we can show our gratefulness to Him?” Stay tuned for next week’s post about what it means to love the God Who loved us first.