As I have been working through my Covenant Study this year (see this post for more details), I’ve been spending a week at a time exploring each of the things I said I “vowed” to do in my covenant walk with Christ. One of those things was that I wanted to grow in my understanding of God’s love every day. And so, the week that I was diving deeper into this topic, I listed out as many things about God’s love as I could (and obviously I could have gone much further with this activity).
God’s love is patient – so incredibly patient. He waits for my wandering heart to return to him again and again. He teaches me the same lessons that I’m constantly forgetting. He reveals new things to me daily and doesn’t expect me to have it all down, for he “remembers that I am but dust” (Psalm 103:14).
God’s love is kind. He does not explode at me in anger. He doesn’t roughly shout at me or get exasperated with my foolishness. Instead, he brings me back to his Word again and again, kindly pointing me to his mercies.
God’s love is joyful. There is nothing about it that is begrudging or tiresome. He delights in this relationship and brings me gladness with his comfort.
God’s love is peace-bringing. It soothes anxiety, for as it says in 1 John 4:18, there is no fear in love. And as 1 Peter 5:7 says, we can cast all our anxiety on him for he cares for us. His love calms the storm and helps us rise above the waves to the refuge that is himself. In a world of chaos, God’s love brings order, steadiness, and tender care.
God’s love is good. Everything in the world that we consider “good” flows from the goodness of God. He is not withholding from us. His character is the very best, and he loves to shower his children with good gifts. Our restless eyes and wandering hearts are what try to convince us otherwise. But the beauty of his goodness is staggering, and this is where we have to go again and again when the world tries to tell us otherwise.
In addition to all these things, however, God’s love is not permissive.
We’ve probably all seen the permissive parent who gives their screaming child whatever he wants in order to stop the screaming. And most of us cringe at the sight of this small child manipulating his parents, knowing that this is not the best for him.
God is the ultimate loving Father, and he loves us far too much to leave us in the grips of our sin without hope of rescue. And so, he confronts us about our sin and disciplines us as a loving father.
Hebrews 12:7-11 says,
“It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
God knows the destruction that sin will have on our hearts and lives, and so he tells us. He tells us what the consequences of following sin will be and calls us to repentance instead—to find life and freedom in following him.
The world right now insists that “love is love,” and we should just accept people no matter what their choices are. They say it is “unloving” to disagree with someone’s life choices and that everyone should just be free to follow their hearts.
But God tells us that’s not love. It’s not love to allow people to follow the destructive desires of their hearts. However painful it feels in the moment, it is most loving to give people the truth—because with the truth comes freedom, hope, and eternal life.
If I fully embraced the destructive desires of my heart, and everyone around me was encouraging me to do so, and several years later, my life was shipwrecked on the rocks of all my bad choices, I would be responsible for those decisions, yes. But I would also cry out, “Why didn’t anyone warn me? Why didn’t anyone confront me with truth and point out my sin that would pull me away from God?”
It’s scary and hard and painful to speak the truth about sin to those we care about. Most of the time, they don’t want to hear it. But 1 John 5:16 encourages us with these words – “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death […]”
For true believers, if we confront them in love, God will convict their hearts, and they will eventually return from the path of sin that they were on. So if we truly love them, we must care for their souls by reminding them of the consequence of their sin.
God’s ultimate kindness and mercy was providing a way out of our sin and destructive desires through the death of his son on the cross. He loved us too much to leave us in the grip of sin patterns that would destroy us. He knows that the best possible place for us is in relationship with him and his community of believers.
When we believe this—when we embrace the freedom that comes from surrendering our desires and temptations to him—when we stop believing the lies that our sin is better than God—we will go deeper into the knowledge of the love of God than ever before.
What precious truth this is.