By Laurie Mathers
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Time for true confessions. When you recognized the familiar verse above, did you slow down to treasure it, or did you breeze through it to get to the article? I hope you slowed down. But if you didn’t, you’re not alone. I memorized John 3:16 when I was a little girl in Sunday school, and I’ve breezed through it ever since.
Even so, it was this Sunday school doctrine of God’s love that kept the door to repentance propped open until the day I got saved at age forty. If I’d never heard that God loved the world, I would never have had the courage to run to Him with my truckload of sin and shame. Once I did, I was so overjoyed by his love and acceptance that I wanted to share it with the world. I told anyone who would listen.
I made my way back to church and drank up whatever I could about the God I now loved. I learned about his many attributes and about many biblical doctrines. But the focus of what I was taught seemed most often to be on the hard teachings of the Bible, the unpopular doctrines. Those are important things to focus on. Everything God has revealed about himself is essential to knowing him.
However, in breezing past the love of God, I lost the basis for my salvation. Without love, his holiness, sovereignty, omnipotence, judgment, and wrath spell nothing but damnation for sinful humans like you and me. Without love, the hard teachings chipped away at my confidence in God’s love for me, chipped away at the assurance of my salvation, chipped away at my love for God’s people and for the lost people he came to save. I no longer talked about him to anyone who would listen.
At church one Sunday morning, not long after the death of my mother, I heard two men mocking the kind of people who like to hear about God’s love, implying that they are stupid people who don’t care about the meat of God’s word or about serious doctrine. What these men failed to notice was that there was a grieving woman listening to their scoffing, a woman steeped in “meaty doctrine” who desperately needed to hear about that love herself.
Today I am convinced, we can never get too much of God’s love or understand it too fully. God’s love is not just a doctrine for children, and it does much more than hold open the door to repentance. It’s the eternal source of our eternal life. We will never outgrow it.
Love is God’s heart for us; it’s the source of our love for him; it’s the source of our love for each other; it’s the power for a holy life; it’s our confidence in our salvation; it’s what makes us want to talk about him to anyone who will listen; and it’s what will lead them to trust him too.