The Bible is a book of love stories: the love of Jacob for Rachel, of Boaz for Ruth, and of Joseph for Mary. But the greatest story is not one of these; rather, it is the story of God’s love for ordinary people!
It is the story of an unreasonable love. ‘‘For God so loved the world . . .’’
Unreasonable because God’s love is not requested, respected and is seldom reflected. When things go wrong in the world like war, terrorism, homelessness, disease, drug addiction, or political campaigns, people tend to blame God. The world’s response to trouble is to seek diplomatic, judicial, economic, and social solutions. God’s love is not respected (valued) because it is viewed as old-fashioned, rigid, and restrictive. God’s love is seldom reflected in a world that worships at the altars of success, popularity, and power. In the midst of all of that, God’s love breaks through and He freely loves the world, with what is an irrational and unreasonable love!
It is the story of an unreserved love. ‘‘. . . that He gave His only Son . . .’’
William Gladstone, in announcing the death of Princess Alice in the House of Commons, told a touching story. The little daughter of the Princess was seriously ill with diphtheria. The doctors told the princess not to kiss her little daughter and endanger her life by breathing the child’s breath. Once when the child was struggling to breathe, the mother, forgetting herself entirely, took the little one into her arms to keep her from choking to death. Rasping and struggling for her life, the child said, “Momma, kiss me!” Without thinking of herself the mother tenderly kissed her daughter. She got diphtheria and some days thereafter she went to be forever with the Lord.
Real love forgets self. Real love knows no danger. Real love doesn’t count the cost. The Bible says, “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.” Unreserved is God’s gift given freely. Without hesitation, no debates, committees, conferences, or deliberations, what He gave was the only one—unique, incomparable, unmatched, and without equal –His Son! What an unreserved love!
It is the story of an unrestricted love. ‘‘. . . that whoever believes in Him . . .’’
A certain medieval monk announced he would be preaching next Sunday evening on “The Love of God.” As the shadows fell and the light ceased to come in through the cathedral windows, the congregation gathered. In the darkness of the altar, the monk lit a candle and carried it to the crucifix. First of all, he illumined the crown of thorns, next, the two wounded hands, then the marks of the spear wound. In the hush that fell, he blew out the candle and left the chancel. There was nothing else to say. How beautiful is the power of the cross? The cross proclaims loudly that Christ’s work on our behalf is a story of unrestricted love in that there are no qualifications to measure up to, achievements to master, or requirements to maintain. The gift of salvation is universal and offered as a free gift to the world.
It is the story of an unrestrained love. ‘‘. . . should not perish, but have everlasting life.’’
Unrestrained in that God’s love for you has no limits (there is nothing it cannot do), knows no bounds (there is no place where it is hindered or ineffective), and it will never end. As the writer of Hebrews describes it, “Your way of life should be free from the love of money, and you should be content with what you have. After all, he has said, I will never leave you or abandon you.” Hebrews 13:5. What an unrestrained love!
Sadly, it is also a story of an unrealized love.
There are many who have yet to respond or even hear of God’s love. ‘‘For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God’’ (vv. 17, 18).
At a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholars were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity. One person suggested that what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God took human form in Jesus. But someone else quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.” Another suggestion was offered: what about the resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Another participant slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.
Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, arm full of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate.
Finally, during a lull, he spoke saying, “what’s all this rumpus about?” Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We’re debating what’s unique about Christianity.” “Oh, that’s easy,” answered Lewis. “It’s grace.” The room fell silent. Lewis continued that Christianity uniquely claims God’s love comes free of charge, no strings attached. No other religion makes that claim.
After a moment someone commented that Lewis had a point, Buddhists, for example, follow an eight-fold path to enlightenment. It’s not a free ride. Hindus believe in karma, that your actions continually affect the way the world will treat you; that there is nothing that comes to you not set in motion by your actions. Someone else observed the Jewish code of the law implies God has requirements. But the beauty of Christianity is that God’s grace is completely and totally free. We didn’t earn it, we don’t deserve it. It was not given to us because we were better than others, because we gave more than someone else, we worked harder than another, were more talented, better looking, or more fit. None of that matters to God.
Hear the text again from the Message Bible: “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one, and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.”
So our mission is clear, those who know God’s love have the privilege to take it to those who have yet to hear, so that they may not only hear the greatest Love Story ever told, but receive the full benefits of that love first hand through faith in Christ Jesus. Through that faith in Christ you receive a life of eternity with God who made your salvation possible.