One of “Those Words”

Love is one of “those” words. 

What I mean by calling love one of those words is that love is a connotative word.  Our language is full of connotative words, words which have some emotional association.  There will be some literal meaning in connotative words but the meaning goes far beyond the literal; connotative words imply other meanings, suggest other meanings.  Some words are more denotative, which is the opposite of connotative.   For example, “paper” is denotative meaning a material manufactured in thin sheets from wood pulp, used for writing, drawing, printing or as wrapping paper.  Both kinds of words are extremely useful for communication between human beings but when you say love, the response you may have to the word love is very different from the response you may have to the word paper.

As I continue to comment on John Stott’s “Revelations of God” [Chapter 8]*, I will be dealing with God’s revelation of love.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” [John 3: 16].

I don’t know of any piece of Scripture that is quoted more than this one and when one really looks at each word that the Apostle John uses in this Scripture, the whole idea revolves around love and sacrifice.  Stott writes “The value of a love-gift is assessed both by what it costs the giver and by the degree to which the recipient may be held to deserve it” [Stott, 210].   When I have given my girlfriend and eventually my wife a gift [sometimes more than I could afford] I was trying to communicate love for her.  The gift symbolized love.  I believed she deserved it.   She is a wonderful person, someone special in my life.  I cherish her friendship and want her to know how important she is for my life.

Since I am commenting on Stott’s Chapter 8, I am focused on God’s revelation** as He acts in our world.  “Just as human beings disclose their character in their actions, so God has showed Himself to us in the death of His Son” [Stott, 200].   What has God revealed when we really think about John 3: 16?

I have had experiences in my life when I questioned God’s love for man, when I was in the midst of my own personal tragedies, when I see natural disasters, when I see reports of hunger and poverty, when I see man making war against man.  My question has always been the same:  how can a loving God allow this to happen?

There is no easy answer to these type of question.  I have grown enough in my faith to believe that God can take any situation and use it for His glory.  I don’t have to know how He can do it; I have grown to believe that He can do it and He will do it, to bring glory to His Kingdom.

What can we point to as evidence of God’s love for us?

First of all, God gave His Son to die for us.  Jesus was the Messiah, the Anointed One and when we turn to Roman’s 5: 10, we see that the death of Christ is “the death of His Son.”  Stott writes that God could have sent a man to us as He sent the prophets to Israel.  He could have sent angels to us as He did in several places in the Bible.  Instead He sent His own Son, “eternally begotten from His own Being.”  It gets lost on most of us but He was really giving Himself to us.  What would it have meant if He tried to save us with a third party?  “Since love is in its essence self-giving, then if God’s love was seen in giving His son, He must thereby have been giving Himself” [Stott, 209].

God’s actions speak louder than His words.

Secondly, God gave His son to die for us.  It would have been wonderful enough for God to have given Jesus (and so Himself) to become flesh and to serve for us on earth, but He did much more.  The King of all Kings emptied Himself of all His glory and became a servant.  The King of all Kings went through torture when He did not deserve it and when He could have stopped it.  The King of Kings in the form of Jesus bore the sins of man and felt forsaken from His Father, being separated from God by sin.   The irony of all this is that the “Man” on the cross did not deserve any of that; we are the one who did the sinning and He was the ones who did the dying. “For the Sinless One to be made sin, for the Immortal One to die—we have no means of imagining the terror or the pain involved in such experiences” [Stott, 210].

God’s actions speak louder than His words.

Lastly, God gave His Son to die for us.  Stott refers to Romans 3: 23 where Paul describes humans as sinners, “failures who have missed the target and who invariably ‘fall short of the glory of God’” [Stott, 210].  The criticism continues when he calls humans “ungodly” for we do not give God the glory due to His name and we don’t have fear of God before our eyes [Romans 5:6 and 3:18].  We are God’s enemies due to our rebellion, rebuffing His love and being defiant of His law [Romans 8: 7].  The last word he uses is “powerless.  We have no power to save ourselves, we are helpless creatures.  Someone much more powerful than man must be willing to die for our righteousness.  Die for us Jesus did, God did.  Thanks be to God!

God’s actions speak louder than His words.

Now after examining the idea of “God gave His Son to die for us” we return to the idea of love.  Is His commitment to man, His sacrifice of His Son enough for us to say that He demonstrated His love for us?  What can we say about God’s love?  Is it revealed?  Is it shown?

Often we hear the cliché  I have already used three times: “Actions speak louder than words.”  My field of expertise is human communication and it is a well-known fact among people who study communication that seventy to ninety-three percent of all messages are nonverbal [a word for visible, outward action].  If you want to get someone to think you love them, tell them; if you want to get someone to believe you love them, do something for them that communicates that you love them.  In other words, act out your love in a visible, outward way.  Another cliché is “talk is cheap.”  It is easy to speak your love, but it is much harder when you are called on to demonstrate it. 

What did God do for man?

He acted on His love for man, He did something visible, and He demonstrated His love.

He revealed His true feelings in Jesus’s death on the cross.

Thank you God…

For loving me.

*Chapter 8 is entitled “The Revelation of God

**See “It Was Not Me,” March 18, 2022,  St. John Studies.

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