A Love that Hurts

In the previous post, we looked at how the Gospel's central aim is to glorify God. Revealing the Gospel of Christ is like holding up a diamond, a rare and precious treasure, to the light. Every beautiful facet of that diamond shines brightly with color and glamour as it reflects light outward. The Gospel does the same for God. The light of the Gospel illuminates and holds high every unique and holy (set apart) characteristic of Almighty God so that we can see Him and glorify His Name. The beauty of the Gospel, then, is that we benefit from His glory as it reflects on us.

Photo via morguefile.com

Photo via morguefile.com

God's love is one of His most hotly discussed and debated traits today. From Francis Chan's Crazy Love to Rob Bell's Love Wins, a wide variety of interpretations on the love of God are available, though not all are biblical. Often, a misunderstanding of love is the prized reason people choose to reject God: "How can a loving God let this or that happen? I could never believe in a God like that." At the same time, many followers of Christ mistaken God's love for a blind and unconditional acceptance of the person, thus excusing and ignoring personal sins and shortcomings that should be dealt with through the process of sanctification.

Without even realizing it, people typically base their understanding of God's love on personal experiences with and beliefs about love. One who has experienced abandonment in key family relationships may then fear that God's love is conditional and can be lost. Likewise, a child who grows up in a home where discipline is lacking might later balk at the idea of a loving God who allows consequences for sins. In essence, we unknowingly limit the love of God to our weak and misguided beliefs about love.

It is, therefore, crucial to have an accurate and biblical understanding of God's love; to base our understanding of God's love on our experiences in this world is a misfortune for us. The Gospel makes known a love that is like no other love in this world.

God is love. It is important to note, though, that love is not god. God is love. He encompasses all that is loving, and His love was “made manifest among us [in this], that God sent His only Son into the world, that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:7-12). His love drove Him to the point of excruciating pain as He gave His Son for our sins. His is a sacrificial love, a love that endures to the point that it hurts. Do not let the depth and power of this truth become lost on you because you have heard it so much already in life. As John 15:13 says, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends."

The love of God compelled Him to pursue and redeem His fallen creation from the grips of sin, and He has made a way for humanity to be restored to right relationship with Him. As believers, we know of this love and we enjoy its benefits as it blesses us. But the point I want to drive home today is that His love does not stop there.

I have a 3 year old daughter who has developed a rather smart tongue. When she is asked to stop doing something she wants to continue doing, her response is immediately, "No!" When she is told to head to her room for her disrespectful words and tone of voice, she proceeds to argue, cry, and throw a fit. It has produced quite an element of stress in our home during these times of disobedience.

Trey and I have a choice in these moments of parenting. We can choose to ignore the behavior and give Kate what she wants, which will temporarily make her happy and bring peace to the situation. Or we can choose to discipline our daughter in love, not allowing these behaviors to continue. This typically increases our stress as we face a child whose will is rather strong. I am not going to lie - I often want to resort to the easier route and give in to my daughter!

However, we recognize that the most loving thing we can do for Kate in these times is to discipline her. To ignore the behavior issues, which also point to a deeper heart issue, would be setting our daughter up for failure in the long run. If left unchecked, the sin in her life that propels her toward self-devotion over obedience will eventually lead to death and destruction. We want a daughter of character and godliness, for her good and our enjoyment, and we want that more than we want a daughter who sees life as easy and as always going in her favor.

Fast-forward several years. Let's think now of the teenager who is in rebellion. He rejects the rules of the house and chooses self-destructive paths. It brings great upheaval and chaos to the home as his parents stand their ground on the rules and pray for his heart to change. They hold to their rules because they know that his choices right now are not in his best interest. These choices lead to death and destruction. The most loving thing his parents can do is to love him until it hurts. They feel his rejection as he spews words of hatred, but they know that they cannot accept his behavior that leads to death. So they stand their ground.

It is the same thing, but much greater, with our God. We want to flaunt and strut and say, "God should love me as I am!" And He does, absolutely, He does love us as we are (Rom. 5:8). But He loves us more than that, because His love does not allow us to stay where we are. His love sees the death and destruction that sin brings, and He cannot want that for us. As His children, He will not allow us to stay in our sins (Heb. 12:3-11).

The love of God is so much more than Jesus dying on the cross for our sins so that we will not go to Hell. We shortchange ourselves when we see it as that. In fact, we miss out on the LIFE God has for us now when we see His love only as another version of the love we experience in this world. His is a love that brings freedom from sin and death, a love that endures even when we do not, and a love that produces holiness and righteousness in those it touches. You will not find this type of love from any other source.

His is a love that exposes the darkness and propels us into living genuine lives.