God’s love is entirely different from every other type of love we experience. Trying to define it based upon our human love is like trying to explain what someone looks like from the shadow they cast on the ground. The person casting the shadow remains ever constant, but our view of the shadow can change with time and our perspective. So when it comes to writing about God’s love, I am like one who looks at the shadow and who can only very imperfectly describe some aspect of what he has observed. The title of the famous Charles Wesley hymn says it so well: Love Divine, All Loves Excelling. Rather than try to describe the divine from my shadow perspective, we can look at God’s own description of his love.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”
We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. We are holy and blameless before him—redeemed, forgiven of our trespasses, and lavished with the riches of his grace. We have been shown the mystery of his will, obtained an inheritance, and are sealed with the Holy Spirit. Love Divine, All Loves Excelling!
If we begin to think of ourselves as somehow deserving of this outpouring of love and grace, the Bible makes it quite easy to determine who is worthy of God’s love—no one! We are reminded in the second chapter of Ephesians, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (2:4-5). God, in his great and amazing love, has seated us—dead people walking, children of disobedience and wrath—in the heavenly places with his Son Jesus. We who have received this love and grace have been adopted by God as his children and, together with the whole church, have been made the bride of Christ. Love Divine, All Loves Excelling, indeed!
God’s Word tells us so much more about his love. In John 3:16 we read, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” His love, grace, and forgiveness are available to all. He gave his only Son for all, even for those he knew would reject him. God’s love for the lost is beyond our comprehension.
Have you noticed that when God’s love is spoken of in Scripture, it is always connected to action on God’s part? God so loved the world that he gave. But God, because of his great love… made us alive. In love, he predestined us for adoption to sonship. God’s love is never without the proof of his actions. Let us dwell in the shadow of that love and realize that God’s love in us is also active: giving ourselves so that God’s love is proclaimed to all.
Roy Heggland serves the CLB as Associate for Biblical Stewardship.