More on Love
Last Tuesday was Valentine’s Day.
As was mentioned last week - the Sunday before Valentine’s Day - the emphasis of the holiday is on love between lovers. However, as Christians, we are to expand that to love that is to be shown by every Christian to every other Christian. One of the goals of us showing love is that those who are non-Christians will also feel our love and be attracted to our faith.
Our example of love is God. To talk about God, and how His love can be shared with others, we are going to consider two Bible passages. But first, how about some thoughts about some thoughts on Valentine’s Day I found online.
A 13-year old girl said this. “I want my Valentine to be a boy I have wanted to go out with for a very long time. I always see him go by, but that fool won't even say hi. I just hope he will ask me to be his Valentine.”
Here are some comments about love written by younger children.
“Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.”
“Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.”
“Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My mommy and daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss.”
“When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.”
Here is one, which is actually not humorous.
“Love is when someone hurts you and you get so mad, but you don't yell at them because you know it would hurt their feelings.”
Here is another. “Love is what is in the room at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.”
“There are two kinds of love - our love and God's love. But God makes both kinds of them. Love is important to God.”
Let’s speak of God’s love. The speaking comes from two passages in the New Testament Book of Romans. The first is in chapter 3, verses 22 through 24.
There is a devotional I have on file that relates to the meaning behind this first passage.
The devotional gives the reminder that love is the centerpiece of thriving relationships. To be in a healthy relationship with God, we need to love God. To be in healthy relationships with others, we need to love others as we love ourselves. That includes loving our enemies.
However, as the devotional adds, it is difficult to love if we do not feel loved.
That is true for neglected children and for spouses who are ignored.
I recently read that one way to keep a marriage healthy is for each of the marriage partners to look at his or her spouse. That seems like a no-brainer concept, but I know it can be easy to get the nose caught behind a newspaper or buried in an iPad or an iPhone. I have to work at not doing that.
In addition, it is easy for parents who are alienated from their children to not feel loved.
Are there other examples of not feeling loved you have ever felt? Or that you feel now?
There is no denying the negative emotions that go with not feeling loved by other people. It is a very hurtful thing. But remember we are talking about God’s love in this message. Even if it seems every other person has turned away from you, even if there is a time when it feels there is no other person around who loves you, remember - or this can be something any of us can share with anyone else who might feel unloved by other people - remember and share that God’s love continues. No matter what, He still loves you.
One place that is taught is Romans 3:22-24. That passage includes the reminder that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” which brings this to mind. It can certainly be the case that if anyone or everyone turns away from us, it might not be anything we have done. It might not be our fault if we are not loved by other people. On the other hand, maybe there are some things - some sins, some falling short of all God wants us to be - that causes whatever relationship problems we have.
But listen to the gist of this first passage. No matter what, we are still loved by God.
That is true for everyone. God’s love for everyone will never change. But the promise holds special wonder for those of us who are Christians - those of us who have been redeemed by Jesus, who have accepted Jesus as the Savior, who have accepted grace, which means receiving something we do not deserve, including God’s forgiveness, which is an example of His love for us.
In the passage, these words are also found. “There is no distinction.” No distinction between those who are perfect and those who are not. No distinction between those who are easy to love and those who are difficult to love. No distinction between those who feel lots of love from other people and those who feel love from no other people.
Everyone is loved by God. That is a fact. For all who have accepted Jesus as the Savior, the privilege is feeling God’s love. A privilege that belongs to Christians whether they feel loved by other people or not.
Remember the devotional? Remember the thought that it is difficult to love when we do not feel loved? Taking today’s first passage to heart, may each of us remember we are loved. We are loved by God. May we take that fact as an encouragement, even in difficult times, to be willing to love others, which just might cause us to attract the love of others to ourselves.
God loves us, no matter what. How strong is His love? Let’s proceed to Romans 8:38-39, where a very wonderful promise is given.
Actually, we also need to consider verse 35 of Romans 8. That verse sets the stage for verses 38 and 39. The stage is the question, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” God and Jesus are one, so this also applies to God. “Who [or what] shall separate us from the love of [God]?”
Paul, the author of Romans, asks another question. “Shall tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword separate us from God’s love?”
Tribulation refers to great troubles, sometimes troubles that are just part of life, other times punishments from God.
Distress refers to experiencing problems and not knowing where to turn for help. Of course we know we can rely on God for help, but this alludes to having no help from another person, which can cause us to be lonely.
Persecution in this passage is suffering because of faith in Jesus. We see that all around the world, even today.
Famine. We see that around the world, too. Famine, as we know, is not having enough food to be comfortable and thrive.
Nakedness refers to not having any of the other creature comforts. Things like clothing, housing, warmth.
Peril. Danger from enemies and from life in general.
Sword. That refers to the threat of death. Violent death at the hands of enemies. That, too, we see some places around the world as groups like ISIS behead their enemies, including Christians.
Can any of those things separate us from God’s love? That is Paul’s question. His answer is, “No.”
Of course, anyone could wonder why God does not intervene and protect His people from all those bad things. I have to admit I have no answer for that. But the promise is clear. Even in times of suffering, God still loves us.
On what did Paul base that promise. Verses 38 and 39. He wrote, “For I am sure that neither death nor life…”
If we live, we who are Christians live with Christ. With God. If we die, the promise is that we who are Christians will be with Christ in Heaven.
I used to teach with a man - Tom Rutz - who, a few years ago, came down with Lou Gehrig’s disease, a progressive malady that slowly takes away the body’s ability to function, including arms and legs and voice. Tom passed away after suffering from the disease for two or three years or so.
At his funeral, it was reported that Tom, before his death, had expressed the following words when told people were praying for him. He said that either way, he would be victorious. If the prayers were answered and he was healed, what a miracle he would see. If the prayers were not answered, he would be in Heaven.
Either way was fine with Tom because either way - in life or in death - he would not be separated from God’s love.
“…Neither angels nor principalities nor powers…” Those words refer to supernatural powers that some believed in back then, some good, some bad. Nothing supernatural can separate us from God’s love.
“…Neither things present nor things to come…” Nothing that is happening now, nothing that will happen in the future, as troubling as things can be and might be, has the power to separate us from God’s love.
“…Neither height nor depth…”
There were some who, at the time of Paul, believed they were affected by certain stars, That when those stars were high in the sky, they brought benefits. That when the stars were at their lowest points, they brought dangers.
I have read that height and depth can also refer to wherever we are, on the highest mountain or deep in an ocean.
No matter where we are - no matter how bright or dim stars are - even those things cannot separate us from God’s love.
Then the phrase, “…Nor anything else in all creation.”
Paul was pretty sure he had covered everything anyone might ever face, but just in case someone could or can think of something else, he wrote, “…Nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Whether or not you feel loved by any other person, you are loved by God. Nothing will ever change that. Nothing will ever take that away. May that promise inspire you and me to share that love with others, not just to prolong the celebration of Valentine’s Day, but for the purpose of honoring God, whose love will always be with us.
* * * * *
God’s love is the topic of today’s closing song. It proclaims that God is love, that there is no place where God’s love is not, and that He is our loving friend. The last verse challenges us to love Him.
The song is the hymn None is Like God Who Reigns Above.
None is like God, who reigns above,
So great, so pure, so high;
None is like God, whose name is Love,
And who is always nigh.
In all the earth there is no spot
Excluded from His care;
We cannot go where God is not,
For He is everywhere.
He is our best and kindest Friend,
And guards us night and day;
To all our wants He will attend,
And answer when we pray.
O if we love Him as we ought,
And on His grace rely,
We shall be joyful at the thought
That God is always nigh.
Lord, thank You for Your emphasis on love, including Your love for us. Love that never has and never will change.
Help us to feel Your love. Help us to share Your love. Help our love for You and for others be cornerstones of our faith.