Sunday, March 18, 2012
What Love is Not
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.--John 3:16
And so He did.
We think of our own children, of how we could possibly care enough for anyone or anything to give our children over to death for them. We cannot conceive of it. We love our children. We hold them in our arms. We know their smell, their feel. Their smiles bring us joy.
But it was not that kind of love that motivated God the Father to hand over Jesus to His executioners. I am increasingly convinced that God does not act according to emotion. Ever.
God feels emotion. Jesus wept, after all, but God's feelings do not drive Him. God knows that what He feels, and by extension what we feel, is not true love.
We tend to look at John 3:16 from our human perspective of sacrificing our own children's lives, of making them suffer for someone else's benefit, and it's true that God did that. But a divine transaction also took place on Calvary.
God did not appoint Jesus for the cross, and Jesus did not climb onto that wood or accept the nails out of emotional love for us. Emotional love is the way we most often try to understand Christ's sacrifice, but emotional love did not drive it.
Something else drives God, an eternal motivator determined from His own character and designated before time began. God does what He does because His actions emerge from His character, His very Self, His holiness.
Christ died not because God felt sorry for us but because God is God: righteous, powerful, sovereign, just.
God says He is love. God's love is God's own Self, not feelings--not pleasure or displeasure, not likes or dislikes, not happiness or sadness.
God's love is determination to work out who He is. He does what He does because He must. He made His plan before the creation of the world. "I will do this," He said, and does.
We can learn to do this, too. In fact, He commands us to. We have to, however, shift our eyes from our emotional heart to God's heart. I love my husband not so much when we kiss or when I feel the rush of emotion but when I enact God's righteous plan for me as a wife. I love my children more when I set my eyes on God than when I bake their favorite cookies. I become a godly friend or employee when I look for God's unemotional, righteous heart in all situations and act accordingly.
I have to learn to unpack my idea of love from how I feel. When we emotionally love, we are looking at one another. Eternal love is seeking and finding God.
This is love: not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Since God loved us, we also ought to love one another.--1John 4:10-11
Try reading the above passage like this:
This is love: not that we (feel emotion for) God, but that He (righteously acts toward) us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Since God (acts righteously toward) us, we also ought to (righteously act toward) one another.
And we can do this by fixing our eyes on Jesus and keeping them unwaveringly there. This is true love.