This coming week, we will celebrate another Valentine’s Day…
Do you remember how we used to celebrate Valentine’s Day in elementary school? We would all write out our little valentine cards the night before, choosing carefully which of our friends were to receive the very best ones. Then, the next day, we all walked around the classroom passing them out. Some of us had little bags taped to our desks or chairs to receive the treasured greetings of our friends. Even as children, we knew the joy of receiving and returning love.
Now all these years later… We do even more!
You see, the reason that most of us are reading this today is that, at some point, we recognized that we had received some expression of God’s love, and we made a choice to return that love with our own. Perceiving God’s love was the beginning of our relationship with Jesus. May I repeat that once again? Perceiving God’s love was the beginning of our relationship with Jesus, and recalling God’s love sustains and strengthens that relationship with God through Christ for our entire lives on earth! I want to write today on the topic, “God is Love.”
In 1 John 4:8 we read:
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
God’s love is shown to us in 10,000 ways, but the one thing at the center of all those 10,000 ways is that they all come in the golden gift-wrap of grace. Grace is much more than mercy. Mercy is when you deserve judgment, but the judge decides not to require it. Grace is when you deserve judgment, but not only is judgment withheld, but blessing is given in its place! That is the picture of God’s loving nature. Let’s begin by recognizing God’s love and grace as seen in 6 different scenes of scripture…
1 – The 9 ungrateful lepers (Luke 17)
“Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’ When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’
“And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.’”
Jesus could have rescinded the healing of the nine ungrateful lepers who failed to even return thanks to Him. But He didn’t. Instead, He allowed them to retain their healings. He did this because – – – God is love.
2 – Healing the Centurion’s servant (Luke 7)
“Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, ‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed…
“When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.’ And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.”
He could have rebuked the Roman soldier for being an enemy of Israel and for his part in the oppression of the Jewish people. Based on these realities, Jesus could have denied the healing. But He didn’t. Instead, He granted the healing to an enemy of Israel who showed faith in the God of Israel. He did this because – – – God is love.
3 – The inclusion of Gentiles into the covenant (John 10)
There was another reason that Jesus was willing to bless the Roman soldier. It was because it was His Father’s plan all along to include Gentiles into His grace and salvation! In the gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 16, Jesus said:
“I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd” (Jn. 10:16).
Jesus could have continued the unique covenant relationship of God with only the Jewish people, as it had been for 1,900 years. But He didn’t. Instead, He established a New Covenant that included Gentiles also! He did this because – – – God is love.
4 – Healing the boy whose father had insufficient faith (Mark 9)
“And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, ‘Of a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.’ Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
“And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.’
“When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, ‘I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.’ And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him….”
Jesus could have quoted the scripture, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” and denied the healing. But He didn’t. Instead, He granted the healing to the man’s son even without the father’s sufficient faith. He did this because – – – God is love.
5 – The love shown to the Samaritan woman (John 4)
“Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
“Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water… Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life…
“The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.
“Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.’” (John 4:9-14, 25-26).
Jesus could have refused to even go to Samaria, as most Jews of His day did. He could have refused to speak with a woman, especially a Samaritan woman who was guilty of numerous sins. But Jesus didn’t refuse. Instead, He offered the water of eternal life to her and to all the Samaritans who believed in Him. He did this because – – – God is love.
6 – The restoration of Peter following his betrayal (John 21)
“He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”
In response to Peter’s blatant betrayal, Jesus could have removed Peter from His place as leader of the first-century church. But He didn’t. Instead, He forgave and encouraged Peter and restored him to leadership and purpose. He did this because – – – God is love.
I could go on, for there are many other such expressions of God’s love and grace as revealed in the life of Christ. But still, we wonder and even doubt… is Jesus still like that today? The wonderful answer to that question comes from the Book of Hebrews, chapter 13, verse 8:
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
Just as Jesus was so gracious to the weak and imperfect believers of the first century, He is equally willing to be gracious to the weak and imperfect believers of the twenty-first century! Jesus shows God’s love for us not only on the cross, but in the crucible of our fears, faults and failings throughout our entire lives on earth!
When I have been careless with my finances, He has still shown his gracious love to me! When I have been thoughtless in my marriage, He has still shown his gracious love to me! When I have failed to make the correct career choices, He has still shown his gracious love to me! Even when I sinned against the Lord personally, He has restored me just as He restored Peter and re-commissioned me for service to His flock just as He re-commissioned Peter 2,000 years ago!
One of the greatest discoveries of my Christian life has been learning that God is not only willing to pull me out of corners I have painted myself into, but He is also willing to then place my feet in pleasant places which I have not deserved! So…one more time…Can you guess why God acts like this towards us?
He does these things because – – – God is love.
My family has been asking me for 47 years now, why do you follow Jesus?! If they would ever listen long enough for me to answer them, I would tell them, because – – – God is love! If a picture tells 1,000 words, maybe a video can tell 10,000! I would like to encourage you to view a 3 min. clip from the movie “Risen” found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1QoltAZyDc
A Roman Centurion named Clavius has abandoned his military post and joined the disciples after seeing the risen Christ for himself. He is still filled with questions and doubts and asks his new disciple friend, Bartholomew, if he believed that Jesus would truly rise from the dead. Bartholomew answers honestly, “Well, He said he would, but truth be told, we doubted him!” Clavius then asks a second question: “Then why did you follow him?” The scene that follows answers that question not only for Clavius, but for all of us still today…!
Let’s conclude with 1 Corinthians, chapter 13. It’s called the “Love Chapter” because this is where we are told what biblical love is really like. So, if God is really love, then let’s try something here to help ourselves see even more clearly what He is like… In every place where the word love is written and in every place where it is referred to by a pronoun, let’s insert the word God, and may the Holy Spirit speak to you as we read together.
“God is patient and kind. God is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. God does not demand His own way. God is not irritable, and He keeps no record of being wronged. God does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. God never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
If these reminders have touched your heart, why not respond by writing a valentine to Jesus? Tell Him why you find Him so beautiful and so lovable. Read it aloud to Him as a prayer. Place the valentine into your Bible and read it over whenever you are discouraged or disappointed. In so doing, we will be keeping the first commandment. It is easy to love God because… “God is Love!”