Love Came Down
Love has been talked about much in recent years, particularly in the wake of the same-sex marriage debate. Advocates of same-sex marriage carry banners that say, “Love is love”, assuming that the definition of love is obvious and universal to everyone. Their understanding is that to be loving to another is to acknowledge and affirm their deepest desire. In this case, they want to affirm and acknowledge their same-sex attraction with marriage, and thus their push to change the legal definition of marriage. To deny and suppress the deepest desire of the heart is considered unloving and bigoted.
However, when we come to our passage today, we do not read of the same definition of love from God. This is one of the most well-known passages among Christians in all of Scripture, because it focuses upon God’s love of the world. Most will read verse 16 and interpret that it is talking about God’s love in a quantitative way, i.e. “God loves the world so very much that he gave his Son.” However, the word “so” is meant to be read in a qualitative way – i.e. “this is how God loved the world: that he gave his one and only Son.”
This small detail shows us that there is a particular “concreteness” to God’s love for the world. God did not just “love” the world by his emotions. There was a determined action and response on the part of God to do something for the world out of love. He gave his one and only Son, the very Word of God (as we learned yesterday), that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. The Son did not come into the world to condemn it, but to save it. This implies that the world needs saving and under condemnation. Unlike what many in our world thinks, there is simply no neutral ground – we are either saved or condemned.
Why are we condemned in the first place? Verse 19 gives us the answer: “people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” Mankind was condemned because not only their deeds were evil, they actually loved darkness, hates the light and will not come into the light. With such dark hearts, how on earth can we be saved? Do we even want to be saved? That is why earlier on in the same chapter, Jesus mentions that we all need to be born again from above to even see, let alone enter, the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5).
Despite our dark hearts, and our desire to affirm our deepest sinful desires, God loved us anyway and gave us his Son. He did not acknowledge or affirm us in our darkness and sin, but saved us from it out of sheer grace. That is how he loved us: by sending his Son to die for us on the cross to take away our sins, so that whoever believes in him “shall not perish but have eternal life.” Thus, in some way, Jesus is the very definition of what love is and what love looks like – Love came down from heaven to save his people from their sins. It is not merely emotion or sentimental platitudes, but a determined and committed desire for the wellbeing and welfare of the ones he loves that resulted in his action of sending his Son. Love came down.
- Pray that we will learn to love others in the way that God has loved us – not in affirming all their deepest desires, but in commitment for the good and welfare of the other
- Pray that we may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge (cf. Eph 3:14-19)