Lesson 12: God’s Love for Us

The Bible seems to make a point of dividing God’s love for us, our love for God, and our love for each other. I’ll use the same pattern.

God’s love for us is not mentioned much in the Old Testament. Scholars claim Hosea did it first 700 years before Christ. He, also, was the first to speak of God loving us as a husband loves his wife. In fact, the Hebrew word primarily means the passionate love between a man and woman.

Remember Hosea’s wife was adulterous. She was always running after the next man who struck her fancy. The prophet took her back, even bought her back, when things fell apart. Hosea says God is the same; he can not help himself. He is like a mother who carries and nurses a child, a husband who can not abandon the woman he loves (Hosea 2: 16-23. Hosea 11:1-11).

Most of us assume the New Testament proclaims God’s love. Actually Matthew, Mark, and Luke never report Jesus saying God loves. They do describe actions that could be interpreted as unconditional love, such as sending rain and sun on the good and evil (Matthew 5: 45goes beyond Deuteronomy 11: 13- 17 where God sends rain on those who love him).

On the other hand, John and Paul make God’s love for us central to their messages. John’s books make up 1/10 of the New Testament and contain 1/3 of the references to love. Everyone must know John 3: 16 makes God’s love for us the reason for the history of salvation. The Gospel that maintains we see the Father when we see the Son, culminates in chapters 13-17 where Jesus commands his followers to love each other as he loved us (13: 34, 35, 15: 9-11). I John 4: 7-21 goes so far to proclaim, “God is love”. Here love is not something God does, but who he is. In fact, if you read all this back into John 1: 1-11, you could say that love makes the world go round.

Paul says much the same thing when he uses “love” to express God’s actions in Christ.
He claims “God proves his love” when Christ dies for us when we were weak, sinners, and even enemies (Romans 5: 5-8). One of his most powerful statements is nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8: 31-39).

Many of us find this the starting point of our faith. All depends on and follows from God’s love for us. It is certainly the basis of justification by grace through faith. God’s unconditional love is the guarantee for our salvation and the foundation for the way we treat other people.

Of course, if this is unconditional love it makes it hard for many of us to think God would exclude any one from his salvation. I recently read a passage from one of the greats (I can’t remember which one) that spoke of coming to the place where he was so overwhelmed by God’s love that he no longer felt any need to exclude some to make his own salvation more secure.

It certainly seems that those who insist on excluding any from God’s salvation are also finding justification for excluding those same people from their care. It serves as a handy, dandy way to disobey Jesus’ command to love our enemies.

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