I often ask God to help me love like her, to help my heart be open to all, to have eyes that see people as God sees them. Lately I have been pondering and meditating on what exactly it means to “love like God.” Obviously I am a broken human and I will never be able to love as God loves–none of us ever will; but still, I pray that God helps me to love like she does.
A few days ago I had a conversation with a dear friend, somehow the conversation turned to God. As this friend asked me questions about God and God’s love I began to really ponder God’s love. I am not an expert and to be frank I don’t even believe I am really the right person to be writing about this topic–but I am going to try. Like always I am going to ask you, dear readers, to be patient with me. I have prayed for the right words for this and am just going to jump in.
You will have noticed the title of the post Agape, which is the Greek word for, as wikipedia defines: “love: the highest form of love…agape embraces a universal unconditional love that transcends, that serves regardless of circumstances.” I have a friend from college who has this word tattooed on her wrist, I remember asking her what it meant and discovering that it was the love that God has for us all. I love the part of the definition, provided above that says, “a universal unconditional love that transcends, that serves regardless of circumstances.”
In the world today we love to put limits or conditions on our love. We like to have love fit into nice little boxes often labeled: acceptable and unacceptable. But that is not how love works and it is certainly not how God works. Love is the one force, the one language, the one action that has the power to cover all differences, all fears, all hatred, all darkness and to bring us closer to one another and nearer to the light. Love is without a doubt the most powerful force in this world but sadly we still turn to hatred and fear. There is a fantastic quote by Nelson Mandela that I have recently let rest upon my heart:
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
Hate does not come naturally to us, we are taught how to hate and how to pick out other people’s differences and see that as evil or something to fear. There has only been one time in my life that I have truly hated someone and I can assure you it is really the most unnatural thing in this world, using my heart for hatred rather than love. All hatred does and all it did was eat away at my heart, suddenly fear, anger and darkness ruled my life–the only person my hatred hurt was me.
Too often people use God as a means to justify hate, they take things out of context and use it to exclude and justify a hatred of God’s children who may think, act, look, sound, worship differently than themselves. This is something that truly breaks my heart because it simply goes against who God is and what I know about God. In my bible I have 1 John 4:7-21 marked off and labeled with a notecard. In my particular translation, the NRSV, this section is entitled: God is Love. The section begins with (verses 7-12):
“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so 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 atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.”
It was not because we loved God that Jesus died for us, it is because God loved us (4:19).
The passage ends with (verses 20-21):
“Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.”
I did not type out the whole passage, but I urge you to go and look it up. It is one of my favorite passages and is the fundamental base that I always go back to. If I only know a little bit about God it is this: God is good, God is always the same and God is love. If we have been created in the image of God, wouldn’t that mean that our hearts were created to love rather than hate? Wouldn’t that mean that if I love God I must love all my brothers and sisters, no matter how different they may be from me?
If we talk about God’s love, agape love, we are naturally brought to one of the purest examples of it we have, Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. As I took my walk today I continually dwelled on what it truly means to love like God, I thought about my Lord and Savior Jesus and how he is the example we have been given as to how to love. In Luke 23:34 we encounter Jesus hanging on the cross, in verse 34 as he hangs upon the cross he utters: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus is hanging on the cross because cruel and hateful humans wished it and in his greatest time of need many of his friends and followers abandoned him and yet; he still asks his father to forgive them, he still gave up his life so that they would have the opportunity for an everlasting one. That my brothers and sisters is agape love. That is a love without any conditions, that is a love that “serves regardless of circumstances.”
It is a beautiful thing to be reminded of how much God loves us and how much we matter to God. I still am in awe of it and there are times, like today, that I stopped and was struck by it. No matter how many times I wander away from home, my God is waiting on that front porch, waiting for me to come on home and just waiting to wrap me up in a warm embrace and cry out, “oh my baby is home, let us rejoice!” That is love and that is grace, and that is who God is.
God’s love is not conditional, thanks be to God! Lamentations 3: 22-23 reads:
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Even when I am unfaithful to God, God remains faithful. I am simply amazed and so incredibly thankful that I believe in a God whose mercies are new every morning, whose love is steadfast and never failing and whose love covers us all.
I am sure I did not do this topic justice, I guess no-one really can. But simply etching out these thoughts has brought great peace and reassurance to my heart. Now let us go and keep the commandment to love our brothers and sisters. This world is in dire need of love, let it begin with us. Look around at your brothers and sisters, no matter how different they may seem, and simply remember that just as God loves you God loves them and pray that God helps you to love as she does.
May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Peace, Joy, Blessings and SO MUCH LOVE,