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Recently I heard a message that Bishop Michael Curry delivered at Yale Divinity School on the topic of love. He started the sermon by reading from 1st John: “Dear friend, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 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 4:7-10 NIV)
Curry then went on to quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s exposition on this passage, reminding us that: “Love is not God – God is love.” Did you catch that? There’s an important distinction that I think we can miss if we’re not careful. It’s not love that we’re worshipping. Instead, we’re called to worship and know God as he truly is, understanding that his very nature is love – and that he has chosen to show us that love through the perfect revelation of his only begotten Son, our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus. We learn and experience what true love is from God. He is the definition of love. We learn and can love God only because he has first loved us.
From the moment of Christ’s birth, when his nature was joined with our humanity, transforming it, sanctifying it and glorifying it throughout his life – he was illustrating what it meant to love one another. He dwelled among us, living in relationship with those around him – patiently teaching those who came to learn and even taking time to teach those of opposed him and even warning them if needed. And when the time finally came, his love for us reached its high point, in Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross. There, in our place and on our behalf, he surrendered himself to God and submitted to our Father’s righteous judgment on our sin and our distrust of him. Christ bore the full weight of our guilt and shame, transforming them into repentance and trust in God’s forgiveness and renewal, bringing us back into communion with God. That’s God’s kind of love.
This Valentine’s Day, I hope we remember those words that John wrote so long ago: “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” And I hope we find ways to show one another something of the transformational love that God has given to us, and like Christ, that this love points us all back to the one who “first loved us.”
I’m Joseph Tkach, Speaking of LIFE.