December 15, 2012

The love of God

Chapter thirteen of 1 Corinthians describes love using a word that is different from all the other words used for love. This word and its usage in the New Testament show that the love God has for us and that we are to share with others is not about emotion or affection, even though those may be part of it. Instead, it is a love that is sacrificial and will do whatever is necessary for the other person’s present and eternal well being. 

This love is not rude, envious, boastful, self-centered, irritable or resentful. It does not focus on the negatives in others, but is patient, kind, persevering, hopeful and ceaseless. The word is ‘agape’ and it describes how God cares for us. In Jeremiah 31:3, He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”

Most people who know about this pure love like to focus on the “feel good” side of it such as it being unconditional and patient. However, those who know God also know that His love includes discipline. I’ve often said that God loves me as I am, but He loves me too much to leave me that way.

This love does not allow its children to play in traffic or to go to bed without brushing their teeth. It does not look the other way ignoring bad behavior nor does it keep silent if those it loves are bad-mouthing their friends. Love never pats me on the head when I do wrong or makes excuses for me. God’s love is tough because, as written earlier, He wants my eternal good. This includes favor with Him and righteousness for me. Love will never slip me into heaven simply overlooking my vanity and disobedience. Instead, He transforms those He loves.

Do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises everyone whom he receives… God is treating you as His children. For what child is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children…. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:5–11)

Does discipline make me righteous? Not at all. Righteousness is in Christ and a gift to those who believe and receive Him. Discipline is to help me say no to my old sinful nature and allow the righteousness of Christ to shine in me. Not only that, without discipline, I must question if I am a child of God, for He disciplines His children.

God disciplines because He loves me, even with an everlasting love. I can expect God to fine tune me for the rest of my life, first because I am His child and He cares about my eternal good, but secondly, because His love is everlasting and will not throw its hands in the air and give up.

Love never ends… Faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:8, 13)

Lord, I’m thankful for the gift of faith and for the reality of hope that keeps my heart joyful and in anticipation of eternity with You. However, I rejoice in Your love, not only the fuzzy, feel-good side of it, but that You care enough to want me to be the best that I can be, transformed into the image of Your Son.

Note: For the grieving in Connecticut, my heart grieves. May the love of God enfold you, give you comfort and draw you to the One who loves you and cares about your pain.

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