What is love? John tells us in his first epistle, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4.10).
God’s love for us is so great that we do not fully comprehend it. He sent His Son as the sacrifice that atoned for our sins, sins that caused a separation between God and us. Since we are the ones who sinned, the onus is on us to restore the relationship. The problem is that there is nothing we can do to fully restore the relationship. Our sin causes an eternal separation. God took the initiative that He had no obligation to take. Solely out of His mercy, God provided the means for restoring our relationship with Him. The means of restoration wasn’t an easy one. In fact, it cost God the life of His Son. We don’t deserve the sacrifice He made on our behalf. Yet he willingly and mercifully made it in order to show how great His love is for us.
Love Leads To Intervention
The family of Kayla Mueller, who had been held as a hostage for more than a year by ISIS, tried desperately to get her back by negotiating her release with ISIS. At ISIS’s request, Kayla’s name was not released to the press. Only her family and a handful of others knew she was even being held. Kayla’s family loved her deeply and went to extraordinary lengths to meet the demands of the terrorists. Many of us can appreciate Kayla’s family and their desperate efforts to secure her release. That is a normal and appropriate display of love for another person.
Now think of Osama bin Laden, responsible for 3,000 plus deaths after masterminding the September 11thattack on the World Trade Center in 2001. Suppose you had the opportunity to intervene in the US military action that led to his capture and death. Would you have offered your son or daughter to die in bin Laden’s place because of your great love for him? For most of us, the answer is an easy no.
God Chose Sacrifice To Display His Unfathomable Love
Yet that is just what God has done for each of us. We are not likely responsible for the deaths of 3,000 people, but our sins, likely more numerous than 3,000 if we could total them, are just as grievous to our holy and righteous God. God knew the sins we would commit. He knew the decisions we would make and the actions we would take that would offend Him long before we actually lived.
And despite that knowledge, God still chose to show His love first by offering His one and only Son to die a horrendous death so that our status as enemy might become friend. In fact, God doesn’t merely call us, who have offended Him so deeply with our sin, friend. He has adopted us as sons and daughters, given us a secure place in His Kingdom and blessed us with an eternal inheritance He distributes to us this very day.
That is love. And it is the love God models for us so that we will go into the world and model the same love to those who do not know Him. God is not calling us to sacrifice our children, but to be sacrificial in the ways we show love. He calls us to take the first step toward reconciliation even if we are the offended party. He calls us to put others before ourselves. And He calls us to set aside judgment and extend mercy instead. In what ways is God calling you to model His love to the world?