God’s love for humanity
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
Background text: Leviticus 19:18
Devotional text: 1 Peter 4:8
Last week, I wrote about God’s love for us. Speaking about the way God surprises us through his love, and what scriptures tell us about God’s love, we find that God loves us without condition and just because we exist. We never have to work to get God’s attention. We don’t need to pray in a certain prescribed way nor do we need to do something in order to please God so he will love us.
Instead, God waits for us to choose to have a relationship with him by our believing that his Son, Jesus, died for us, canceling out our sin. We come to God, just as we are: imperfect, unclean, failing, rich or poor. God stands at the door of our very being, waiting for us to answer his call.
I love the painting by William Holman Hunt titled The Light of the World (1851-53), showing Jesus standing outside of a door knocking. It is a painting depicting the verse from Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him and he with Me.”
This painting gives us a glimpse of the reality of Jesus expressing God’s love for humanity. It is Jesus reaching out to us to bring us eternal life. Not only that, but as we open the door of our hearts to Jesus, God transforms us from sinners to brothers and sisters of Christ, and heirs with him, to the kingdom of heaven.
God has given various gifts and talents to all people as suits their personality (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). These are those things that most interest us and that we are good at. When we become believers in Christ, our personalities seek to use those same God-given talents to serve God, as a form of giving glory back to him (1 Peter 4:10-11).
1 Peter 4:8 tells us we should “above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.”
What Peter is saying to us here is a reminder not to gossip about the sins of others. Instead, as followers of Christ, we are to keep our mouths shut. Romans 3:23 reminds us that “we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Not one person is perfect, and it is not up to us to judge.
If the person is a friend or family member, however, who continuously is involved in the same wrongful or harmful behavior, we should talk to him or her about our concern. However, to speak behind another person’s back is never constructive or pleasing to God.
As Peter has said to us, our love for one another as believers should go deep within us. Our God is the God of second chances or third or fourth … As human beings we do fail God from time to time, but, as we seek God’s help and forgiveness, he is always right there and ready to forgive.
Remember Romans 5:8, when Paul wrote, “But (God) demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Similarly, there is 1 John 4:10: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
The message from God is to do everything according to his agape love (1 Corinthians 16:14), for God’s love never fails.
Let’s look at some of the Old Testament scripture that is echoed in the New Testament concerning the teaching of God’s love.
From Leviticus 19:18, we read, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”
See the same concept echoed in Romans 13:9-10: “Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.”
Jesus took the love of neighbors even further when he said in Matthew 5:43-48, “You’ve heard it said love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you … ”
When Jesus spoke these words at his Sermon on the Mount, the people were shocked and confused. They were no different than you or me, thinking, “What do you mean that I must love my enemy? That person hates me! I want nothing to do with that person!”
Notice, Jesus did not say to embrace your enemy. He said to pray for your enemy and love your enemy. He wants us to love those who are against us out of the God-given place inside of us that knows God’s love.
Do not respond hate with hate, for you do not know what God will do. Whatever the outcome in the end, you will have done what is right in the ways of God.
Again, quoting from Romans 12:10, Paul wrote, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
Returning to the Old Testament, in Proverbs 10:12, it is written, “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers all wrongs.”
There is a question about sin: “If we still sin, does God still love us?” The answer is a resounding, “Yes!”
Galatians 5:19-21 reads this way: “God and sin are incompatible. God is faithful to us and loves us even if we are unfaithful to him, because God is true to his nature.”
In 2 Timothy 2:13, the scripture says this to us, “If we are faithless, God remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.”
In closing, I remind us from the Old Testament, Isaiah 54: 10, of the unfailing love of God for humanity: “Though mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed … ” From Psalm 86:15: “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” And, from Psalm 136:26: “Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever.”
Of all these wonderful scriptures, I think it is Romans 8:38-39 that speaks to me the most: “Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord: neither death nor life, not angels or demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any power.” Amen.