We will start off by examining how and why we love others. Let’s honestly ask ourselves who it is that we love…not who we should love, but who we actually love in thought and deed. I’m just going to parse out thoughts from my own life and you can choose to apply them in your own lives where they are applicable. I tend to love people who believe most of the same things that I do…people who share the same type of ethics, morals, and interests as me. I do have friends that I disagree with on important issues, but I can easily say that they do not make up the majority of my friends (probably a 70-30 split). And most of the 30% in the minority are people from work. Let me be clear in saying that I am using a tight definition of the word friend here…these are people that I talk with on a somewhat regular basis about different issues. The point I am making is that I tend to show love towards people who are more like me than unlike me. I also tend to love people who are attractive to me either physically, mentally, or spiritually. I love the way my wife looks, her sense of humor, and her strong stand for the Word of God. I love my boys because they are funny, smart, sweet, and loving. I love to talk to people who enjoy talking about sports, theology, and silly/funny stuff. And the way that I show love is mainly by expressing appreciation in words, be it spoken or written. Not that I mind doing things for people, but I tend to be more verbal…just something that I have noticed. I am sure this is something that is different from person to person, so just look at your own life and see what you see. Basically, I love people that I want to love in the way that I want to love them for the most part. Now I will say that this has changed somewhat since God saved me, but it has not been a total transformation and won’t be until I am glorified in His presence. I do see that I have a great affinity for other saints and find great joy in gathering with other believers, whether for fellowship or worship. So this gives an idea of how and why I love others…you’ll have to determine whether this is true for yourselves or not.
Next let’s take a look at how and why God loves His elect. Where we saw that I love others based upon things that I like, it is clear that this is not true of God. Just read this and tell me what it is that God sees that causes Him to love any man:
“What then? Are we better than they? Not at all, for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are under sin; as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.’ ‘Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving,’ ‘The poison of asps is under their lips’; ‘Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness’; ‘Their feet are swift to blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known.’ ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’” (Romans 3:9-18)
Clearly there is nothing that God can see in man that makes Him think we are great and wonderful and that He should love us. In fact, we see that it is quite the opposite. We are filthy, wretched sinners who have rebelled against Him and polluted His creation. God loves us because He chooses to do so. Yes, He has much mercy and grace, but He is also the righteous judge and has to judge and punish sin. In His mercy, He has chosen to punish the sins of His elect through the atoning death of Jesus on the cross, where He (Jesus) also faced the wrath of God for the sins of the elect. In His grace, He has imputed the righteous life of Jesus to our account so that we may enter into His presence in Heaven. This also involved Jesus conquering death so that we may also be resurrected to perfect, glorified bodies suited for eternal life in the presence of God. And all of this is the manifestation of God’s love for His elect that is done without us being attractive to God in any possible way…until He changes us. And even after that change, we still have sin in our flesh. So God loves us only because He chooses to and He does so sacrificially. He does so in word, thought, and deed…perfectly.
So, we have looked at the love of man and the love of God. Now let’s take a little peek into the implications. I’m sure that anybody who reads this will have other implications that come to mind, but I’m just going to put down a few that come to mind for me:
· We are limited by the way that we love, but we are freed by the love of God. We are limited because we tend to exclude ourselves from loving all people and gaining from the fellowship and counsel of other believers who probably can see some blind spots in our lives better than those who share some of our same predispositions. We are freed by God’s love because He empowers us to get beyond those predispositions. That takes a lot of prayer, meditation, and work, but as we become more disciplined in our practice, the more we will grow in this type of love.
· We need to be conformed more to the image of Christ. “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren”. (Romans 8:29, emphasis mine) We’re used to hearing this verse used to show the Biblical basis for predestination, but it is also demonstrates that the elect are predestined to be sanctified. And our failure to love in the same fashion that God loves us shows that we need to be conformed to the image of Jesus even more.
· We don’t fully understand the love of God. I mean, if we really did would we love the way that we do? Yeah, I know that we’re saddled by sin and that keeps us from loving that way, but doesn’t that also keep us from fully understanding His love towards us? I long for the day when we’ll be glorified and in his presence so that we can have a better understanding and practice of this type of love.
So, to get back to the questions I posited, I think that we have a limited understanding of God’s love for His elect and that there is also some limited semblance of this love in our own lives. However, we need to be growing in both the understanding and practice of this type of love. Although we will never love exactly the same as God does, we should try to do better than we do now. I pray that we may all see growth in this area.
Let me know what you think about this...and add some areas for me to work on...