A Meditation on Love
By John McCoury
Roan Mountain, Tennessee
Hosea 11 presents the idea of God’s steadfast love in high definition through the story of a man’s unfailing love for a failing wife. Sixteen times in this sustained revelation, God uses I to show that he is the One who loved and sustained His people through every step of their lives. He demonstrates the all-encompassing characteristics of His love by employing three illustrative analogies: He loves us as a father (helping his son learn to walk), as a husband (wrapping his beloved with bands of love), and as a shepherd (removing the yoke from their neck and stooping to provide food). In these tender images, we see how great the Father’s love for His children is (Jer. 31:2,3,20). I regard [this passage] as one of the jewels in the Bible, for in it we see … what the love of God means to God Himself. Astonishingly, in this passage the prophet tells us that what we find… is a broken heart, the broken heart of a deserted parent.
Hosea insists that there is one very fundamental and important way in which God is like us, He loves and loves in a way that we human beings can understand and experience. And because He loves, He feels. He can be hurt. He can suffer.” Does God feel pain? Does God suffer when we sin and show contempt for His love? Verse 8 seems to indicate He does. Some say this is simply God’s way of helping us understand the deity in the language of humanity—the only language we understand. Certainly, at some level, we must concede that Jesus’ life—a life filled with emotions, pain, and suffering—helps us understand who God is. You and I are created in God’s image. That means if we feel hurt when someone abuses our love, it is because we are made in the image of God, who is also hurt when His love is abused.
UNCONDITIONAL LOVE – Ps. 103:10-12 God doesn’t gauge His love based on conditions. With God it is not “If you perform, I will love you” or “If you fail, I will reject you, hardly! His love is unconditional. You can turn to God, warts and all, and bring Him your crushing experiences of failure. You will never hear Him shame you for coming to Him. He is ready to hear from you because He is overflowing with a compassionate love that never fails.
LOVE – 1 Cor. 13:1-3 Relationships need love. Congregations do too. What pastors need with their flocks is love, and flocks need it with their pastors. Love is what spouses and parents and children need-what bosses and employees and business relations need. It’s the essential employees and business relations need. It’s an essential ingredient in all relationships. It isn’t optional. Remove love, and you reduce life to a grinding, boring, labor-filled series of demands, requirements, and unfruitful assignments. Let me be clear: Love is not just an emotion, or a thought. Love must be demonstrated. Love does (or does not). Love means more than good thoughts and feelings. Love is a demonstration, not an attitude. Love is action. 1 John 3-12-18 IT IS HARD to think of a more tangible expression of hatred than murder. It’s no surprise that Cain, the first murderer, is John’s example of hate (1 Jn. 3:12). In contrast to hate stands love, and in contrast to those who would take life are those who would give their lives. Christ’s self-sacrificial death on our behalf—even while we rejected Him—he proved His love for us. Why on earth would He go to that cross and die? Why on earth would a good man die for sinful people like us? Love is why. From the example of Christ, we see what real love is. After establishing this, John sets the hook: If we really love, what will we do? “We also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters – If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?” (1 Jn. 3:16-17). Our compassion for others proves our love for God. How do others know we love God? Because we are there for them in their need. We’re moved by it. We’re touched by it. Do you notice the change from the plural to the singular in those verses? John begins with what “we’” ought to do but then turns to an individual: “someone.” When we focus our attention on the purpose of action, we focus on an individual. Loving everybody can be an excuse for loving nobody. That’s how we get out of it. That’s how we handle our guilt. You might say, “Oh, I love the world! I just love everybody.” But if I asked you to name one person whom you have proven it too, that will be a different story. That’s John’s point, and his exhortation is simple: Show the truth by love in action (1 Jn. 3:18). John is writing to believers in this passage. He is writing to you and to me about the battle between love and hate in our lives. Our names are all over this section. So where are you in the real expression of God’s love in your life? I can only answer for me—and that’s a full-time job! You must answer to you. I want to give you a project. This week ask God to help you focus on just one person. Not everybody in your office or on your team—just one person. Maybe one of your children, or one parent, or one neighbor. All week long, ask God to open your eyes to some need in that individual’s life. You won’t see people’s needs if you try to look at the plural instead of the singular. So, pray about just that one person: “Lord, give me eyes to see a need in that’ person’s life. I open myself to be used by You.” Then, once God reveals that need, do something unexpected to help meet it. We all know many people with needs. The necessary part is doing something about it—putting love into action.
John McCoury is pastor of Evergreen Freewill Baptist Church in Roan Mountain, Tennessee and the chaplain at Roan Highlands Nursing Center