SIMPLE TRUTH: Love is response

Published 10:46 am Tuesday, October 29, 2013

By Charles Christmas

God’s love for us, our love for God and our love for others has to do with “response.” A good Bible definition of God’s love is that it is God’s response to our sinning and sinfulness toward him: our rebellion, rejection and enmity toward him. 1 John 4:10 says, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that God loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrated his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God’s love had absolutely nothing to do with our obedience to him, our love for him or with any good thing within us. God’s love was his response to our self-centeredness, disobedience and rebellion by offering forgiveness and reconciliation through laying down his life for us on the cross. It is explained in Isaiah 53:6: “All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned every one to his own way. But the Lord has laid on Jesus Christ the sins of us all.” We have truly experienced God’s love only when we have gladly received the gift of forgiveness, reconciliation and eternal life through a commitment to Jesus Christ. Only then can you say with personal heartfelt meaning, “He loved me and gave himself for me.”

Our love for God is our response to his love for us. i John 4:9 says, “We love God because he first loved us.” This is our love for God, the simple explanation of our love for God, our motivation for loving God and our delight in loving God: “because he first loved us.” We express our love to God by obeying his word, his will and his commands—and all because “He first loved us.” It is a matter of loving God back for all his love for us and because from our changed hearts we desire to do so. It all originates with the cross. There is where we get our love for God and our motivation to express and prove our love for God. And it is also at the cross where we can get our love for God renewed when our love may grow cool.

Our love for others must be a response to God’s love for us. If we respond to others according to who they are, what they are, or what they have done to us, then we may give different kinds of responses. But God requires that our action and attitude toward others be in response to God’s love for us. 1 John 3:16 says, “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we must lay down our lives for our brothers.” In Ephesians 5:31-32, God says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.” This not only applies within the church congregation, but toward outsiders. In Matthew 5:44, Jesus said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you.” But how can we inwardly be able to do that? The answer: in response to God’s love for us and toward us.

My loving God, my loving the members of the family of God and my loving those who do not know Christ must all be in response to God’s love for me. Therefore, it is my response to his cross. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34) The only thing that is “new” about his “new commandment” is the new example: the cross, “as I have loved you.” Jesus was saying, “I command you to live the cross;” don’t just be saved by it and preach it, but “live the cross in your attitudes and actions.”

—Charles Christmas is a religion columnist for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Thursday.