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“God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). Since this is true, then we can learn what love is from God. Note the words of Adrew Murray:

It is the very nature and being of God to delight in communicating Himself. God has no selfishness, God keeps nothing to Himself. God’s nature is to be always giving. In the sun and the moon and the stars, in every flower you see it, in every bird in the air, in every fish in the sea. God communicates life to His creatures. And the angels around His throne, the seraphim and cherubim who are flames of fire—whence have they their glory? It is because God is love, and He imparts to them of His brightness and His blessedness. And we, His redeemed children—God delights to pour His love into us. And why? Because, as I said, God keeps nothing for Himself. From eternity God had His only begotten Son, and the Father gave Him all things, and nothing that God had was kept back. “God is love.”

One of the old church fathers said that we cannot better understand the Trinity than as a revelation of divine love—the Father, the loving One, the Fountain of love; the Son, the beloved one, the Reservoir of love, in whom the love was poured out; and the Spirit, the living love that united both and then overflowed into this world.[1]

 

God is Love

First, we need to note that God is love. He does not love us because of our actions. He does not love us for what we can do for him. He is love. God’s nature of “love” should then be our personal objective–to love because we are loving.

God’s Essence Leads to Loving Him

We love God because of who he is, not because just because of what he does for us. If we love God only because of what he does for us, then we do not love God, we just love the benefits of God. This mindset and practice lead to “God abuse” where we only “run to God” when we need or want something. Like Santa Clause who only gets a letter once a year and milk and cookies to congratulate him for giving us gifts, God has become a friend only valued for what we can get out of him.

Loving God Appropriately Helps us to Love Appropriately

Given our abusive of God, it is no wonder then that we have so much trouble loving and being loved. Too often parents will try to buy their children’s’ love with gifts. Wives and husbands believe that they will only be accepted by their spouse if they sacrifice themselves and everything they enjoy for the one whom they “love.” Many accept abuse in order to have that special (really?) someone in their lives. Is that the way God would love?

God does demand we conform to his image, but this is the best thing for us. Would you allow your loved ones to drift into lower and lower qualities of life without trying to lift them? Would you allow your loved ones to destroy their lives without trying to save them? God is not an abusive deity who demands obedience to build up his prideful ego. He does not need us to serve him (Acts 17:25).

God has called us to be with him. He enjoys us, despite our failings. He presents us to his Son as his bride for Jesus’ joy. The Spirit dwells within us for his delight. Notice that God does not dwell with us for what he can “get from us.” God dwells with us because he loves us—not what we can offer.

Shouldn’t we love God because of who God is? Shouldn’t we love others for who they are? Should we love others only because of what they can give us? Isn’t that really loving yourself self?

Can We Abuse God?

Does God allow us to treat him abusively? Just reading that question should make you tremble. How dare we even entertain such a thought! Instead, we love God because he first loved us because he is love. Loving God inevitably leads to personal improvement—sanctification. However, that sanctification is for our benefit and God’s glory not for God’s ego.

Would God allow himself to be abused? Is that not what judgment is about? Remember the word of the LORD in Jeremiah 7:3-7,

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, ‘This the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’ For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, now walk after other gods to your own ruin.”

God warned the people to not take him for granted. Do not abuse God. Barnhouse wrote:

The whole of the story of salvation would be nonsense were it not for the fact that the very nature of God is love. But we must not be confused into thinking that God is love apart from any other attributes. In fact, if you say that God is love without realizing that God is hate of sin, you have no gospel at all because you do not have God. The people who teach that God is love without teaching that God is also hate of sin, have, in reality, another god who is Satan with a mask on[2]

Do not think you can call on God only when you need or want him. Instead, he is to be your God perpetually. God wants to always be with his people. Our relationship with God shapes our relationship with mankind. We must be just with others. We must care for them because God cares for us.

Abuse of God will lead to judgment. Abuse of others will lead to losing our relationship with God.

God is Love, and We Must Love, and We Must Expect to be Loved Appropriately

Suffering an abusive relationship is not God’s plan. It is not loving. It is not godly. When God’s people abused him, he told them he would leave till they repented. We should have appropriate boundaries as well. Establishing these boundaries helps us to be God-like. It helps us to value ourselves appropriately. It helps us help others. If we do not maintain boundaries, we will devalue ourselves—God’s image bearers. If we do not maintain boundaries, then we will encourage abuse. Let us encourage true love. Augustine wrote:

“You see now that to act against love is to act against God. No one should say: I sin against man when I do not love my brother. Pay attention: To sin against man is a light matter; only against God I should not sin. How will you not sin against God when you sin against love? “God is Love.” [3]

 

 

[1] Heritage of Great Evangelical Teaching : Featuring the Best of Martin Luther, John Wesley, Dwight L. Moody, C.H. Spurgeon and Others. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997).

[2] Donald Grey Barnhouse, Man’s Ruin: Romans 1:1–32 (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1952), 25.

[3] Augustine of Hippo, Augustine of Hippo: Selected Writings, ed. John Farina, trans. Mary T. Clark, The Classics of Western Spirituality (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1984), 302.

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