One of the most pressing mysteries we humans face is whether or not to believe that we are loved. We don’t talk about it. We say that we know it, but deep down nearly everyone struggles to trust this elusive emotion. The problem is not with love itself, but with our twisted version of it. As imperfect humans, we have a limited capacity for love and so our understanding is limited as well.
Perhaps the greatest weakness that we all share is not our inability to feel loved, but in our limited ability to love others. And yet, despite these hindrances, we persevere. We find love, from others and for others, in volumes that surpass our own understanding. How can this be, and how can we begin to understand love in a way that leads to trusting relationships? We must remember that we did not invent love, it was given to us. If we can truly understand God’s love for us, then we can begin to know what He intends for us to share with each other.
Here are a few aspects of Love that can help us learn to spot it and to share it.
1. We know that God’s love is sacrificial.
John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. He gave up the one thing of greatest value to show His love for us.
God’s love required that He give Himself on our behalf. If we are going to love others with a true love, we must be willing to sacrifice ourselves on their behalf. This does not mean being a doormat to their whims, but rather being willing to put their feelings and well-being first, ahead of our own. In the same way, if someone puts our needs and best interest first, we feel loved.
2. We know that God’s love is unconditional.
Romans 5:8 – But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. God gave what we did not deserve. He did not wait for us to love Him or obey Him before He sacrificed Himself on our behalf – He did so in the midst of our rebellion. This is where love gets real! Am I able to love someone who does not love me back? God does, and through His mercy and grace I am able to learn to do the same. Those who love us, even when we have been unlovely, are those whom we learn to trust and appreciate the most!
3. We know that God’s love is beneficial.
John 10:10 – The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. God gave Himself to us so our lives would be better. (here and in eternity) When we experience God’s love, our view of everything changes. Our life takes on a deeper, more purposeful existence and we have a desire to please Him. While our human nature will inevitably hurt even those we care about, love does not show a pattern of hurt without remorse. If we love someone, we want their lives to be better for having us a part of it. In the same way, those who love us enrich our lives and cause us to desire their presence.
4. We know that God’s love is original. It comes straight from the Source.
1 John 4:7-8 – Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. Since God IS love, all sacrificial, unconditional, and beneficial love comes from Him. This is perhaps the most important, albeit most divisive aspect of love. If we can acknowledge that God not only invented love, but reveals, sustains, and upholds love, then we can learn to love as He does. I cannot possess a sacrificial, unconditional, beneficial love apart from experiencing an overwhelming and powerful love in my own life that overflows from me to others. As I live in gratitude for the magnificent love from my Heavenly Father, I am compelled to show that love to others that He places in my life.
Take a moment today to thank God for His unmatchable love and ask Him to fill you with enough to share.
As we continue our look at the redeeming hand of Christ in the lives of Old Testament women, we cannot help but pull over and park in the life of Boaz. While I have taught the story of Ruth many times, God has recently revealed to me the beauty of His sovereignty as He prepared Boaz to be her Kinsman Redeemer. As we looked at the salvation and inclusion of Rahab into the Israelite people, we learn in Matthew 1 that she gives birth to Boaz, by Salmon. No mention is given to Boaz's upbringing or Rahab's life within the Israelite nation. The next time we see Boaz, he is introduced as a 'worthy man'.(Ruth 2:1)
Remember the story of Ruth. She was a Moabite woman who married into an Israelite family who had traveled to Moab during the famine in the Judges period. Tragedy befalls this family and the father and two sons all die, leaving three widows, helpless and alone. In this time and culture, these women had few options. They could each return to their families of origin, or take their chances on surviving long enough to find a Kinsmen Redeemer to marry one of them and provide for their needs. As Ruth is presented with these bleak options, notice her own profession in her response:
"But Ruth said, 'Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.'" - Ruth 1:16-17. While her devotion to her mother-in-law is moving, do not miss the fact that her pledge is to the Lord. She makes the declaration here that the God of Israel is her God and she asks Him to seal her purpose and commitment to His people. Just like Rahab, we see Ruth declare the Lord as her own and give us a glimpse of what being adopted into God's family looks like.
Ruth and Boaz hear of each other by reputation first, before they meet. Ruth knows that Boaz is a 'worthy man' and that he is a potential Redeemer for her family. She humbly begins to work in his field, in hopes that she will gain his favor and find security for herself and her mother-in-law. Boaz enters, and immediately inquires of this new woman in his field. When he is told who she is and what she has done, he immediately has strong compassion toward her. Look at their encounter:
"...Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me since I am a foreigner? But Boaz answered her, 'All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!'" (Ruth 2:10-12)
Pause and admire the sovereignty of God in this moment. You have a man who was raised by a foreign prostitute in a deeply traditional culture, now reaching out his hand of mercy to a widowed Moabite with nowhere else to turn. Boaz had no doubt seen both the ugly and beautiful side of God's people. There are always those who judge and even condemn those whom God restores and he may have seen some of that directed toward his mother growing up. He would have felt sympathy toward Ruth for this reason. However, he clearly had also seen the incredible and matchless love of God's people when they extend His grace toward the outcast and downtrodden. His mother had been brought in fully, and had experienced the power of God in her own life. He lived in that shadow of grace and flourished as a man of God in the Israelite nation. When he meets Ruth, he has the opportunity to share the grace that he and His mother received. Every detail of his life, prepared him for this moment, to be the Kinsmen Redeemer in God's story who rescues Ruth and fathers Obed, father of Jesse, father of King David. God always has a plan, and it makes all things beautiful!
There are many circumstances in life that we do not understand. Often we feel that God has forgotten or does not care about our pain, our confusion, or our need. It is in these times, that through His sovereign plan, He uses His children to be His hands of grace. Trust God in your struggles, look for ways to lean on His grace, and at all costs, seek opportunity to pour that grace out on those God places in your path!