The bible tells us that “we love because he first loved us.” While it is common to summarize the Old Testament as presenting a God of judgment and the New Testament as a God of love, such a characterization is not rooted in the facts. We see tremendous instances of God’s love in the Old Testament. (Have you read Zephaniah 3:17 lately? – “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”) We also see many words about judgment in the New. In both testaments, love is the root of God’s action.
We see the two, love and judgment, come together in various places. One in particular stands out. Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates his love toward us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Judgment says we’re sinners (a couple of verses later it uses a stronger word – “enemies of God.”). Love makes a judgment that the judgment of sinner is not the final word.
Ok, so God loves us. Or we might put it in some other words of John. It’s not just that God loves us, but that God is love. That starting point of our love lives is knowing this love of God.
“Knowing” is an interesting word, isn’t it. We go to school so we can know more. While knowing – having an intellectual grasp or understanding of – God’s love is a good thing, the more important kind of knowing is experiential. When I was a child I experienced my parents’ love before I even knew the word, much less understood the concept.
So let’s ask this, have you experienced God’s love? Let me refine that a bit more. Have you experienced God’s love as God’s love, in a way that you could say, “Yes, I have experienced God’s love, and here is an instance of such an experience.”
The more we come to know God’s love the more clearly we see the truth about ourselves (sinful, broken, lost, needy) and how that truth about ourselves, because of Jesus, is not the final truth about us. The love of God expressed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus relativizes those truths about us, those words of judgment.
Have you received that gift of love? That’s what makes or breaks your love life.