God is Good (7)
He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 1 John 4.8
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1.17
An eternal economy of love
In the Godhead, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit enjoy an eternal relationship of love. Each Person is devoted to the Others, seeks Their glory and praise, and submits to Their will. Nothing is lost as They do so; indeed, the bond of love that allows Them to show such mutual deference and devotion leads to the unity, concord, holiness, harmony, and order God enjoys within Himself, and overflows in His work of creation to everything He has made.
God is love, and He loves with such infinite capacity and power that His love never ceases, is never interrupted or exhausted, and ever overflows into His works as a witness to His goodness.
Love like God’s, therefore, is good, because it is disinterested, pure, generous, edifying, and unfailing. Love must not be defined in terms of mere sentiment, for human emotions are too varied and unstable to produce a reliable standard for love. Love defined by the love God enjoys within Himself, and which He shows to all His works, presents a standard for love which we may not entirely understand, but which we can be certain is always and unfailingly good.
The high standard of God’s love
How great is the love of God? Jesus explained the high standard of God’s love when He declared that God’s love for His creation led to the sending of the Son to redeem the world from its fallen condition and to restore it to God and His goodness (Jn. 3.16). The love of God displayed in Jesus can be observed along three facets.
First, love recognizes the worth of the beloved. The cosmos God created is valuable to Him because it is His (Ps. 24.1) and manifests His goodness and glory (Ps. 19.1-4). God loves the world because He made it, He owns and sustains it, and He intends that it should achieve the full potential for glorifying Him that was His original design (Hab. 2.14; Rev. 21).
Love takes as its focus, therefore, not mere self-interest, or the realization of some emotional state, but the admiration of the beloved, and the desire to see it realize its full and God-given potential. Every creature and person is a work of God. As we see the cosmos and others in this light, we will love as God loves, because we will see in all things a reminder of God, Who made them and Whose they are.
Second, love embraces self-denial. It is not possible to devote oneself to the enhancement and edification of others while pursuing a primarily self-interested agenda (“This will be good for me.”). Jesus denied certain of His divine prerogatives and powers to become a Man for the salvation of the world (Phil. 2.5-11). In so doing, He showed us that love must be willing to set aside self-interest to achieve a greater good which redounds to the benefit of all.
Third, love acts sacrificially and for the edification of the beloved. Jesus’ death on the cross was not merely a symbol; it actually accomplished the forgiveness of all those the Father has given to Him. And the Holy Spirit’s coming down among us to indwell those who are being saved is so that they might by Him be built-up into Christlikeness, both as individuals and as communities of believers (2 Cor. 3.12-18; Eph. 4.11-16).
Love thus proceeds according to criteria and toward objectives that refract Jesus Christ in all His various states of existence – eternal Son and Word, Incarnate Savior, risen Lord, exalted King, and returning Victor and Husband of His Bride, the Church.
Jesus is the standard of love, and we are truly loving with love that is good when we love like Jesus does.
Love is good
Such love does not come naturally to us. We are naturally self-centered and resolved to satisfy the wants and needs of the self in all we do. Apart from God and His love, all love is a kind of bargain, a give-and-take in which each person who “loves” hopes to gain at least as much for himself as he gives, and gives only as much as is necessary to gratify himself.
This kind of love is unstable and unreliable, even though it may in many ways succeed in accomplishing good ends in people’s lives.
Only the love of God is consistently and unfailingly good. And though such love does not come to us naturally, it does come to us supernaturally, as we put aside all self-love, learn Jesus and His ways, and are transformed increasingly into His image by the indwelling Spirit of God (Eph. 4.17-24; 2 Cor. 3.12-18).
Love like God’s love, like the love we see in Jesus Christ, is good, because it issues from and results in all the other forms of goodness, and thus fuels an ever-abounding and ever-increasing experience of the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
1. What are some of the key attributes of the love God enjoys within Himself?
2. Why is love based on mere sentiment not a reliable standard for love?
3. How can we grow in our vision of Jesus in all the phases of His existence, so that we increase in love like His?
Next steps – Preparation: Consider the people you see each day, week after week. Can you say that you love them as Jesus does? Can you see ways you might improve in His love toward them?
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.