Advent Devotions 2017
December 20, 2017
Imitate the God of Love
From the simple verse, “God is love,” that we learned as children, those of us in the church are reminded over and over again that God loves us:
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13: 34-35
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”… “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. Matthew 22: 36-37
“And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22: 38-40
“For God so loved the world…” John 3:16
“…let us love one another, for love comes from God.” 1 John 4:7.
“God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” 1 John 4:16
Are these just words or do they really have meaning for us? Do they shape our lives? Can we explain what God’s love means to us?
A couple of years ago, I began developing a relationship with a young man. He did not grow up in the church. As a matter of fact, he had only been inside a church building once or twice in his life. As an adult he had no connection to the church. How do you start from zero to describe a relationship with God or God’s love, when there is really no common vocabulary you can use?
At one point he said: “I see our relationship with God to be reciprocal or contractual. God asks of us certain things and in return he allows those of us who have embraced his teachings into Heaven. It’s true that this is a one-sided affair in our favor. Nevertheless, it is still a contract among consenting parties.”
There is nothing about love here, but at least he was beginning to get on the right track. I responded that, to me, it was a little easier and clearer to describe it this way: In the Old Testament, God makes covenants (contracts) with humanity over and over again. However, it is as if man consistently looked for the loopholes in the rules. Time and time again, humans couldn’t keep their end of the bargain.
It is as if God decided, “Words don’t work. I must show humanity what I mean.” So God sent his son as a model of what a heart and life based on love and devoted to him could be.
How am I showing those around me what it means to be filled with the love of God?
In 1 John 3:18, we read: “Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”
Do we give a Christmas gift to someone because we are supposed to, because we know they will give us one, or is it because we really want to show our love for that person? There is very little joy in the first two examples. Instead, we choose to give out of love, as God gave love to us.
Living a life based on what Christ taught us is shaped by unconditional love, and we as Christians ought to seek after this kind of love in our own faith and in our actions toward others.
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2.
Written by Bob Shoemake
Art by Claire