By Allen White
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:10-11
God loves us. Whether we love each other or not, God will always love us. God even loves His enemies, including at one time you and me (Colossians 1:21). Love is part of Who God is. He doesn’t love because He feels loving. God loves because He is Love (1 John 4:8).
God’s love is extreme. He paid the debt for sin at great personal cost to Him – He sent His Son. Why couldn’t God just say that He forgave without causing Jesus to die for us?
As much as God’s nature is love, His nature is also holy and just (Isaiah 5:16). God is not some ogre who made up enough rules to cause us to fail, so He could hold it over our heads. God’s nature is opposed to sin and evil. When we choose to sin, we place ourselves in opposition to God and His Presence in our lives. God loves us and wants to be in relationship with us. He will do whatever it takes to break down any barrier that might come between us – even to the extent of offering His Own Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
The atoning sacrifice, or propitiation, is a reference back to the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament. On the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies to sprinkle blood on the mercy seat, which was above the Ark (Exodus 40:20, ESV). “In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been” (Leviticus 16:16).
Jesus took the place of the bull and the goat that were sacrificed for the atonement of God’s people. He died once for all (Hebrews 9:12) so we could have a right relationship with God.
How do we love other people? We love others because God loves us. It’s easy to love people who love us. What’s better than that? But, to love the people who are indifferent or mean or hateful – they are very difficult to love. Yet, how can we hate the people who God loves?
We learn to love others by loving difficult people. While we certainly enjoy being with the people who love us, we don’t learn as much that way. Loving people who are hard to love makes us more like God. Serving people who are ungrateful will do more to stretch our faith than much else.
Who is difficult for you to love these days? Have you asked God to help you love that person? Have you asked God to help you to have compassion on them? Don’t let your feelings toward someone else get in the way of your relationship with God.