“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:7-11
The final chapter in the book, The Attributes of God by AW Tozer concentrates on love. It was a very fitting attribute for me to study today since today marks my husband and mine's 18th wedding anniversary. I know years ago I used to hear couples talk about how their many years of marriage had gone by “in the blink of the eye” and I never could imagine how that could be, but looking back over our past 18 years it really has seemed that short.
As I think about our marriage in relation to the marriage of the Lamb to His bride, the church, I think about how our many days in eternity will also be “like the blink of an eye” and yet we will never have to pray as my husband prayed this evening that God grant us many more wonderful years in our future together. In eternity every day will be filled with complete and perfect marriage bliss and we will never have to live with thoughts in the back of our minds that some day those days of bliss will come to an end – what a wonderful thought!
As I was reading through the chapter on God's attribute of love and how scripture defines God through that attribute, AW Tozer pointed out something I had never really thought of before in reference to the three words in 1 John 4 that tend to throw a lot of Christian off kilter when it comes to trying to define God in the terms of love.
“When scripture says, 'God is love,' it is not defining God...to equate love with God is to go way off in your own theology...[instead] God and love are equal to each other – identical...'God is love,'...means that love is an essential attribute of God's being. It means that in God is the summation of all love...God can do nothing except...in love...So when God redeems a man in love, or damns another man in justice, He's not contradicting Himself, His justice and love are working together in the unitary Being of God.” AW Tozer
To think that grace is love is not understanding that “God is love”, to think overlooking offenses without considering their ramification is not understanding that “God is love.” Yes, God does extend grace when we sin and when things are done outside of His will and His law of truth, but that grace is extended at the price of the cross and through the blood of Christ. Grace is not free to God – grace comes with pain, thankfully pain that He is willing to absorb for our betterment.
Likewise, our relationships with other people, if we are to show the love of Christ, must also absorb much pain in order to provide grace and love just like our Father. I have had to deal with a very difficult situation over the past month with a fellow Christian who seemed to not understand that godly love could be anything more than viewing the lives of others from the perspective of permissible grace. She has the view that God equals her human perspective of love and unfortunately she started misquoting scripture at me in defense of her view because there came a point a few weeks ago that my theology of "God is love" had to make a hard stance which disagreed with hers. (I had prayed for God to allow it to happen in a much more civil interaction, but as it turned out that was not His will.)
I have grieved over this conflict and the continued righteous attitude this woman continued to have towards me. I have prayed fervently, fasted and sought God about what I should do or not do in trying to show love as God would desire for me to show it to this women and her family. What God in the end asked me to do was to be silent, to pray for this woman and her family, to allow Him alone to work in their lives, and not to interfere with His plan for them. I was a little taken aback at this request at first, but when I looked at how God has dealt with me in the past, in His love, He has been silent and He has allowed me to walk on the crooked path away from Him while I have been caught up in my haughty mindset, and amidst it all, He alone has worked in the resultant difficulties I have had to face. In hindsight I found myself humbled about how my perception of God changed during these wayward times and I came back on the road with Him eventually realizing that He was much more than I ever thought He could be or could have been convinced of apart from learning my lesson the hard way.
I guess what I am getting at here, is that to define love in the terms man and then to define God as love in that narrow view of what we tend to equate to love will never work if we are to truly show love to our fellow man as 1 John 4 tells us we should. The next time you look at the section of 1 Corinthians 13 about love, remember that all the things that equate to love are in the manner than God would act towards us with love. If we are to suffer long, then we must be willing to suffer as long and as hard as God has suffered for us. If we are to be kind, we are not to be kind like our fellow man towards one another, we are to be kind the way God is kind to us. If we are not to envy, then we are not to envy what God does not envy. If we are not to parade our love around and puff it up to look all righteous and extra blessed, it doesn't mean we slink away and hide ourselves from enjoying the love we have been given to live in, but we do need to honor that love as God does in order to make it more beautiful in how we live in that love...And the list goes on and on to follow the verses through.
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8
The love God calls us to exhibit love in this world as a reflection of Him - it is tough love because it is love that most in this world has no concept of. It is love in truth and it is love that comes with the most ultimate cost not only from God but also as best we can live it out for God as He calls us to. We must be willing to love others as God loves us and our fellow man. How that love is made manifest is different for every situation and towards every person, but thankfully we have the Holy Spirit who guides us along in living out the love of God in our day to day lives so if we listen to Him and obey Him we will always be showing His love to a watching world.