Love is the very character of God as expressed within the life of the Triune God, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit pour themselves in love for each other.
God Himself is love as we are reminded by John in 1 John 4:8. God’s primary characteristic in relating to us is also that same self-giving love. It is because He loves us that He sent His Son to die as a sacrifice on the cross of Calvary (John 3:16).
On the cross, we see the empty hands of Jesus, empty of the glamour and false promises of this world. In that gesture, Jesus gave Himself to us and for us, making love real and tangible.
He not only saves us through the gift of His death, but also calls us to love through the gift of His resurrected life. When His Spirit fills our hearts, we begin to love the way He does. “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him… We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:16-17,19).
To follow Jesus is therefore to follow His path of self-giving love. In a world that honours, rewards and celebrates selfish grasping, Jesus shows the truly human way to live—the way of giving. To live life in the way of Jesus is to bring God’s beauty and glory into our lives. When God becomes our focus of worship, and Jesus becomes our Lord through the indwelling Spirit, then love flows forth from our lives in two important directions.
Firstly, we learn to love God with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength (Matthew 22:37). How do we love God? We love Him by honouring Him above all and obeying Him (John 14:21).
We first learn to love God for our own sake. We go to Him because He can help us and be useful to us. Our visits to Him are prompted by our own needs.
Then as we progress in the journey, we begin to love Him for His own sake. We go to Him, not because we are driven to Him by our needs, but because we are drawn to Him by His greatness and love. Our love can grow to the point when we become self-forgetful in His presence. We become so enthralled by Him that we can forget our own prepared speeches and choreographed performances for Him; we simply sit at His feet awestruck and profoundly at peace in His abiding presence. We stop using Him and start to truly love Him.
Secondly, we learn to love our neighbours as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). Watching God at work through the life and death of Jesus, we are tutored in God’s loving ways.
We become Good Samaritans who can allow our own agendas to be interrupted so that we can love and minister to others. We become channels and conduits for God’s love to flow into wounded and hurting humanity. This love comes with pain, but walking with Jesus, the true Lover of our souls, we learn to love even those who are unlovable, those who hurt us. Such are the remarkable ways of God that go against the grain of this competitive, revengeful and violent world.
To follow Jesus in the fallen world means we give away our lives in love, upwards and outwards.
God’s primary way of relating to us is a self-giving love. We see God’s love demonstrated on the cross. What is your experience following His path of self-giving love? How do you ensure that you continue on this path?
Excerpted and adapted from Following Jesus In A Fallen World by Robert Solomon. © 2009 by Robert Solomon. Used by permission of Armour Publishing. All rights reserved.