Sunday, February 14, 2016

True Love (or “God Gives a Valentine to a Love Junkie”)

How’s your history with love? Like mine, is it quite a story, full of twists and turns, joy and sorrow, hope and heartache? One of God’s favorite things to do for us is a re-write, where true love really does win our hearts.

Way back in the murky years of elementary school, it occurred to me that I liked it when girls liked me. It felt good. And I wasn't dumb about it—I took note of what girls liked. When I was funny, they liked it. When I was caring, they liked it. When I made a good play in sports, they liked it. When I looked good, they liked it. It wasn't long before I had a storehouse of knowledge concerning what girls liked. Pretty useful, I thought.

Through the ensuing years of wanting to be liked, I brought out of my storehouse whatever I thought was best for the situation. I wanted this girl or that girl to see me at my best, so I offered a bit of caring here, some physical prowess there, and perhaps a witty phrase or two to really dazzle. And I figured out a very useful equation: She sees me + she likes me = Valentines galore.


What did I do when I wanted God's love? Well, I thought the same thing would apply. Right? I wanted Him to see me doing the things He liked—reading the Bible, witnessing, giving, caring, comforting, not sinning, etc.—so He would like me. Right? So I worked a similar equation: God sees me + God likes me = Valentines galore. It works with women, so it must work with God. “It's the way of love.” Or so I thought.

But ever since God and I really got together when I was twenty-four, God, who sees me at every moment, loved me for no reason that I could see. Before I could bring out one speck of Valentine worthiness from my storehouse, He dazzled me with love. And I have never been able to motivate Him to love me from that day to this. He has never once conveyed to me that He loves me now more than He once did. Not one time has He told me that His love for me is deeper, better, seasoned, more fun, more reliable, or more secure. I haven't done a thing to bring about anything any better. Maybe that will be my claim to fame, or maybe it will be on my tombstone: "Without doing anything to deserve it, Ralph knew God loved him like crazy.”

If you asked my wife, Sarah, why she loved me, she would give you some good reasons. She would say, "I love Ralph because . . . he's witty, he's smart, he's caring, he's good looking, etc." But if you asked God why He loved me, His response would be nothing like Sarah's. There would be no “because.” That's something that has confounded and fascinated and drawn me to Him ever since He first wooed me to Himself.

God is love! (1 John 4:8) God's love doesn't ebb and flow, rise and fall, motivated by the subject or the moment—God is love. And have you noticed? He's wild and reckless with it! When you consider who He loves, don't you come to the same conclusion? He doesn't keep His love only for the loveable—not for a moment! He lavishes His deep and lasting affection upon the best and worst of us—without regard. And, try as we might, nothing can ever separate us from His love (Romans 8:35-39). Nothing. God shot my love equation all to hell. Really. He did it for love, and a re-write of what I thought love was.

And now? I’ve got a new equation: God's love + God's grace = Valentines galore! The very best of true love.

"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:4-9).

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