February 23, 2013 in City

Steve Massey: We best reflect God when we offer love

SteveMassey
 
About this column

Three times a month, community columnists weigh in on matters of faith and values. The column appears Saturdays and features artist Donald Clegg, of Spokane, retired Methodist minister Paul Graves, of Sandpoint, and Steve Massey, a pastor from Hayden.

When are we most like God?

Is it when we judge? After all, God certainly judges and will judge all of us one day with finality.

Or is it when we love?

I vote for the latter and lean on Scripture to support the choice: “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8, New King James Version).

Christians have the high privilege – and duty – of showing the nature of God to our world. What the world sees in those of us who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ shapes opinions about God. We do well to consider what others might think about our God after watching and listening to us, or reading our newspaper columns, for that matter.

God is love. What does that even mean?

The greatest single expression of God’s love was the sending of his son, Jesus Christ, to live a perfect life and die on the cross for our sins. In that one act, it’s easily seen that God initiates love, is sacrificial in love, and in love desires his best for us.

It’s a good thing God didn’t wait for us to make the first move toward him, because none of us would have done so. Again, I’ll lean on Scripture: “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners,” says Romans 5:6, 8 (New Living Translation). “God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”

We imitate God’s love when we initiate acts of love. That means extending grace, mercy, forgiveness, patience and kindness toward others, rather than waiting for them to make the first move.

The cross of Jesus is the turning point in human history. It demonstrated powerfully the extent to which God loves us. He loves so much he sacrificed his own son – Christ, the eternal son – allowing him to bear the judgment for our sin.

And God graciously offers to forgive us our sin if we repent – turn away from sin and turn to God – and trust in Jesus’ sacrifice for us.

There’s no getting around the fact that if Christians are to imitate the love of God in this world, it will be costly and sacrificial. We show little of God’s nature when our acts of love are always comfortable, safe, affordable. God’s love is a radical love, and he calls us to the same.

You know, we live in a world that is terribly confused about love. Many believe that to love someone is to permit them to do whatever they want. But God doesn’t love that way.

The cross of Jesus was necessary because God does not want sinners – that’s all of us – to spend eternity in hell. In other words, he wants his best for us and offers to withhold what we actually deserve.

God lovingly offers heaven, not hell, because he desires what is best for us.

True love toward other people does likewise. It doesn’t condone or look away when another is living wrongly, destructively, but points them in the right direction.

Christians, if we’re to love others as God loves us, then we must boldly point others to God and to God’s ways. We must desire what is best for them and pursue God’s best ourselves.

I often wonder if some of the messed-up views of God in this world are reinforced because he is being misrepresented by some who claim to believe in him.

We can help change that when we initiate love, sacrifice in love, and in love desire God’s best for others.

Isn’t that how God loves us?

Steve Massey is pastor of Hayden Bible Church (www.haydenbible.org). He can be reached at (208) 772-2511 or steve@haydenbible.org.


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