By Jody Bennett
Lots of people say that God loves you. What do they mean by that? And is it true? The same people or others may say I love God. What do they mean by that? And how can we know whether that is true?
The only religions that claim that God is a God of love are Judaism and Christianity. They also believe in the same God and share a common Scripture (the Old Testament), although Christians believe that the promises in the OT were fulfilled in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (detailed in the New Testament). For them the Bible is the standard by which everything is judged. How does the Bible define love? Well, in the original Greek language of the New Testament there are four different words for love. Sexual love (eros), friendship love (philia), family love (storge), and perfect/holy love (agape).
When we talk of God’s love that is not a sentimental or sexual love, it is agape – a perfect, unearned, active love, not a feeling-centred sentimentality.
How do we know that God loves us? – He demonstrated it by dying (as the God-Man Jesus Christ) on the cross for all our wrongdoings and rebellion, in order to make a way for us to be in relationship with Him. As the much-quoted verse John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whomsoever believes in Him should not perished but have everlasting life.”
Does God love everyone equally? Yes, in the sense that He has made a way for everyone to come to Him through Jesus. Does that mean that God loves what everyone does, doesn’t expect them to change their behaviour or that He will love them forever and not throw them into hell for their sin? No. The term “unconditional love” gets bandied about but it is not Biblical. God’s love is unearned but unless it is responded to, it will someday be superseded by God’s hatred and wrath for sin. If you don’t believe me, just read through the books of Psalms and Proverbs and see how many times it talks about God hating or abhorring the wicked.
And how do we know that we love God? Well the Bible is clear about that too. “Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.” (John 14:23-24) If we love God, we obey Him. Obey Him how?
Jesus said that all the many laws of the OT were summed up in the greatest commandment — to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind, and to love others as yourself.
Loving God and doing what He said are vitally linked together. True love is shown by our actions, not in feelings and words. Love does.
A cheating or abusive husband may say he still loves his wife, but she won’t feel loved, and he is not doing to her what he would like her to do to him. That is not love.
A person who claims to love God and yet is selfish, bitter, immoral and rude, is showing by their actions that they don’t in fact love God. It doesn’t matter what they say or think they feel.
Jesus said in Matthew 7:21 — “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”
By Jody Bennett