It can be easy to throw around a word like ‘love’ and think that the nice, positive vibes it produces are all that it conveys. But, if we do that, it can easily lose its significance and become little more than other happy words we might put on a birthday card, words that sound good, but have very little concrete meaning.
So what does it mean that the aim of the gospel is love? And what does it look like for the people of God to be to be defined by this word and reality?
Timothy is a young pastor in Ephesus. Paul describes him as true son in the faith (1 Tim 1.2) and is the apostle’s ministry apprentice. Paul has charged him with task of fighting for gospel truth in the city and making sure that the church in Ephesus truly understands the nature of gospel-shaped love i.e. God’s love for his people and our love for one another.
God’s Love for Us
‘But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!’ (Eph 2.4-5)
God’s love is displayed and given to sinful, broken, spiritually dead and corrupt people who really, really don’t deserve it. If we were left to our own devices we would chose anything or anyone but the true and living God; we chase after the things of this world, exchanging the truth for a lie (Rom 1.23) and are as dead in our sins. In fact, by ourselves, we can’t do anything to merit God’s love, even our best efforts are describe as fitfully rags and our hearts as places from which wickedness and corruption flow (Mark 7.21-23). It’s a bleak and grim picture of the human condition.
But God’s kindness towards us is so overflowing that is in ‘immeasurable’ in Christ (Eph 2.7). God’s love for his lost sheep is immense, spectacular and all encompassing.
And this love is shown to us definitively in his Son’s death for us on a cross. Jesus’ blood is what brings us redemption, forgiveness, adoption, inheritance, salvation, peace, unity, purpose, joy and satisfaction.
God’s love which came at the greatest cost, the death of his one and only Son, bears the greatest blessings. It truly is love that surpasses all knowledge (Eph 3.19)
Our love for each other
‘Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children, and walk in love, as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us…’ (Eph 5.1-2)
The radical nature of God’s love for us – overflowing in mercy and grace towards people who don’t deserve it – that truth shapes our love for each other.
Love is more than a feeling.
In the letter to the Ephesians, it is marked by action. And those actions are not occasional, movie-moment, big dramatic gestures. Active-love gets involved in the minutiae of daily life. In the way I speak to you when I’m tired and grumpy. In the way a husband loves his wife, in a daily, Christ-like way. In the way we strive for sexual purity in a world enveloped in darkness. In the way we bear with one another in our shortcomings. In the way we show humility, gentleness and patience at every opportunity.
It’s love that will feel costly, and often undeserved. It is love that seeks the good of other people. It is love that reflects the Father’s love for us.
Prayer of the Day
Please plant into the heart of every Australian the spirit to love our neighbours as ourselves, to follow in the footsteps of Jesus in caring for those around us—friends and strangers alike—as you draw our community together in love.
Please, loving God, draw especially close to those who are alone or troubled at this difficult time. Calm their troubled hearts, and move their friends, family and acquaintances to call them to encourage and support them.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.