Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Knowing God's Love

“Don't try to understand me, just love me” is what the bumper sticker said which my mom had posted on the refrigerator. In my younger years I often wrestled with those words, thinking to myself, “I don't understand why someone wouldn't want to be understood.” Later I got married and caught some of the wisdom as I came to realize that some people are IMPOSSIBLE to understand so you have no choice but to love them! Now wait - I'm just being facetious! My wife and I both understand that we don't always understand each other. And after almost 10 years of marriage we've realized... it's ok!

Not that we can't “try” to understand each other. Sometimes, after looking at things from the other's point of view, the lights go on and we see something in each other's way of doing things which suddenly makes sense! But what about the rest of the time, when no matter how hard you try to wrap your head around someone else's style and reasoning and ways of doing things, you just don't “get” them? Proverbs 10:12 says that love covers all sins. Could love also be a good covering for a lack of understanding as well?! After all, the “love chapter” in the Bible (I Cor. 13) tells me that love is patient, love doesn't insist on its own way, love is not provoked, love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

None of us, of course, loves another human being perfectly in those ways. However… since I consistently fail to perfectly understand others and since I often feel misunderstood myself, I think it's worth taking a deeper look into this “love” thing! After all, the way of love does yield more peaceable results, doesn’t it? Yes, it's wonderful when we get each other, but it seems that love goes so much deeper and travels so much farther.

Yet - how can we overcome the imperfections in our human-to-human love. One question I've found myself asking God a lot over the years is “how do I love others in the way that you love me?” It would take another 100 articles just to skim the surface of how I've tried and failed at loving even those closest to me, never mind the ones I haven't wanted to get close to! Perhaps, to find the key to love it would be good to hear from someone who has walked closely with Jesus and would have unique insight into God’s love. John, who was known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” wrote these ever-so-revealing words about the source of our love for God and for others: We love Him because He first loved us (I John 4:19).

If we do not first know the love God has for us – which words cannot describe nearly completely enough (although we can catch a glimpse of the light in the crack of the door by understanding that His love for us has absolutely no conditions whatsoever) - then how can we even begin to think that we can truly love Him or anyone else? Human “love” can often be selfish and conditional. We’ll sometimes reach out in “love” to others, not because we're such great people but because we ourselves desire love and acceptance from others. At times we may love selectively, such as when we feel like it or when we think someone is deserving of it! Or we’ll withhold love if we feel somebody doesn’t measure up. The game has been played since the beginning.

If we want to move from the realm of conditional, needy love to unconditional, giving love, what other way is there than to get to know the only One with truly unconditional, sacrificial, perfect love? The One who “is” love. I so very much want to love God and love others in the same way that God loves, but I believe we must first know and experience God's unconditional love before we can begin to express it. This doesn’t happen overnight! But one practical way to grow in this might be to read and dwell on various Bible verses which speak of God’s unconditional love and which speak of what He has done for us on our behalf without us deserving it. In other words, don’t just read about it, but spend some time “abiding” in it. Also, think of how different your life would be without His love. Bathe yourself in the love of God! Spend time simply being loved by God. Soak it in!

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