Have you ever wanted to be wanted? I mean, REALLY wanted! And loved…DEEPLY loved! I think we all do. I think we all crave someone to take us and accept us and cherish us. And so, we set about trying to create a persona that will attract people so they care about us and care for us. We primp and we present our best sides and skill sets. We work hard to being the best we can be so that we appear to be desirable. Eventually someone comes along and says the three magic words we long to hear, “I love you.” Please know, I am not talking about romantic notions here (although we do these things even more when trying to attract a life-partner). I am referring to the basic human desire to be loved. Now we are loved. Phew! We can relax, right?! No. Not really. Deep in the recess of our psyche there sticks a small thorn…the thorn of fear. This thorn can cause us internal irritation and not even draw a lot of specific attention to itself. Something is wrong but we can’t put a specific name to it.
There is the other side of the “love coin” and that is, we want to be a loving person. Perhaps we have been mistreated in the past and we “never want to become like those people.” We try so hard to love and accept people but continue to be critical of them and untrusting. In fact, sometimes we can be downright abusive! We get frustrated with ourselves and vow to try harder, to be better, to love stronger. For the next while we actually do pretty good! But then, then there’s “that” person…the one who is very trying. “That person” who is like the Mount Everest to your “love climb.” If you could love “that person” you would KNOW how far you’ve come. Unfortunately, it only takes one very frustrating encounter and you find yourself exhausted, wondering what is wrong with you.
There may be a third side to this love-scene…you enter into a place that claims to be loving. I.e. The church. Some say its 50/50 as to whether or not you will actually find a church that truly loves people. Unfortunately, I think that ratio may be quite optimistic. I know what you’re thinking…either, “WHAT?! You are a pastor! You are supposed to be selling…errrr, I mean, supporting the church and promoting it as the representatives of Jesus here on earth!” OR you may be have thought, “Damn straight! The people I have met who have claimed be Christians never seemed very loving to me. The once or twice I did enter into a church no one ever seemed warm and inviting…or their warmth lasted the length of their handshake and directing me to a seat. I think I’ll pass on church.” The reality is that churches are filled with people who also want to love and be loved but there is a shared issue between us all: we can only love others as we ourselves have experienced being loved. Did you catch that? We can only love others as we ourselves have experienced being loved.
Which brings me to the title of this article “The Love Of God…so misunderstood…so desired.” The reason that the love of God is so misunderstood is because we apply our view, experiences and expressions of love to the love of God. For example, if we found while growing up that in order to be loved and accepted we needed to achieve and perform at a high level of excellence, we very well might believe that unless we are perfect God can never love us. Applied to others, it means when others don’t meet our expectations we don’t communicate the warmth of love to them. Or, perhaps you have found that unless you looked a certain way you are not accepted. Therefore, if we don’t look a certain way God won’t accept us. So we may try to lose that weight or buy certain clothes etc. It also means that we transfer that onto others. The list is endless and in your heart you may already have begun thinking about your own experience of being loved and accepted or rather, unloved and rejected. And therein lies the thorn…fear. The thorn of fear goes something like this, “If they really knew me with all my faults and failures, temptations and sins, they would never love me…God would never love me.” We read in 1 John 4:18-19,
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.
To be truly loved means we have no fear in that love. That is, we are loved through and through, completely and totally, brokenness and all! God loves us with all of our warts, failures, temptations and twistedness. God loves us with all of our fears, darkness, drives and sin. He knows you better than you know yourself and he loves you…all of you! Did you catch v19? “We love because he first loved us.” He loved us first…the Bible tells us that while we were still sinners – while we were still his enemies – God loved us. How does that make you feel to know that God loves you completely and totally?! He loves you no matter what you have said or done, are saying or doing, will say or will do! You cannot diminish or increase God’s love for you. God loves you. Period. He is crazy about you! He loves you so much that while he takes you as you are he doesn’t want to leave you as you are which is why he died for you so you can be free from fear. He put himself out there first as fully as another person can by dying for you. He became broken so you can become whole. He took on sin so you could be free from it’s shackles. He was rejected so you would be accepted. And all of this he did while you were still rejecting him because he loves you that much. There is nothing that you have attained or accomplished that wooed him to you. He just loves you.
The cool thing is that when we come to him and accept his love we don’t have to earn it and we can just soak in it. And because of this we can pass it along to others. We can let God’s love move through us to other’s who are going through life either skeptical of love or fearful in love. We are told in the Bible that when we come to God and receive him, we become his children, that is, we receive his DNA, his seed (1 Peter 1:23; 1 John 3:9). What does that mean for us? In the bible we are also told that, “God is love” (1 John 4:8) which means love isn’t something God does…its something God is. I had been reflecting on this and asked myself, “How can God love me? How can he love me with all of my struggles and sin?” My counselor responded by saying, “When you ask that question you reveal that you don’t know about God’s love. Love is God’s DNA…God cannot NOT love. For example, an orange tree produces oranges because it has the DNA of an orange tree. It won’t or cannot produce apples unless its DNA changes. God is love, that is, he cannot do anything but love.” When I heard this my mind blew up and my heart was overwhelmed. God loves me. Period. God loves you. Period. Come up with as many reasons as you like as to how this is not possible and not one of them will hold any weight in light of the Bible and the truth of God’s love. When we are the seed of God it means we too can love like God loves. Others around us will not need to meet our expectations or perform to certain levels or look certain ways before we can authentically love them as they are. We can love them extravagantly just as God loves us…we can do this because we have now experienced love in a new way, a more complete way. And now, we can pass it on to others who are craving to love and be loved. The love of God…now do you understand? God loves you!!! How will you respond?
“They will know you are my disciples by your love.” ~ Jesus