“I have loved you,” says the Lord. Malachi i.2
Failure to recognise God’s love towards us is one of our cardinal sins. This fundamental flaw leads us to question God’s love. Once we have lost sight of God’s love for us, we fail to respond to Him in love. The greatest of all commandments is that we love the Lord our God with all our being. How can we fulfil this basic obligation towards God if we fail to realise that God’s love towards us is limitless?
The serpent, in the Garden of Eden, used this weapon against Eve when he tempted her. He tried to convince Eve that God did not have their best interest in mind when He prohibited them from eating the fruit of a tree. The serpent’s questions were aimed at sowing seeds of doubt in Eve’s mind: “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” The serpent then contradicted God’s word, portraying the Creator as a liar: “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis iii.1-5) Once the serpent convinced Eve that God wasn’t their well-wisher as much as he was, he had won half the battle.
Several centuries later, God spoke to his people, “I have loved you.” The Jews of that time responded, “How have you loved us?” Obviously, the “people of God” were bitter against God. They probably blamed God for all their misfortunes. There are innumerable people in today’s world who question God’s goodness and love. They have “evidence” to prove that God isn’t good. They cite their personal sufferings and all the evil that’s present in the world. How can a loving God permit all this suffering? Either He isn’t a God of love or He doesn’t exist, they say. Christians are not exempt from this tendency. Once we have a diminished view of God’s love for us, we will be unable to love God, ourselves or our neighbours. Without drinking deep at the eternal Fountain of love, how can we love anyone?
In His love, God pursued his people. He explained to them how much He loved their forefather Jacob over his twin brother Esau. Even before they were born, God chose Jacob as the one who would found a holy nation. God wanted the Jews to take a good look at their cousins, the Edomites: “I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” (i.3) Edom, Esau’s descendants, would be known as “the people with whom the Lord is angry forever.” (i.4) Perhaps that’s all it takes to convince us too of God’s favour upon us – a good look at our extended family or community. Though we are not called to rejoice over someone else’s calamity, we can truly be grateful to God for His kindness towards us.
Beyond all earthly blessings, God shows us His love through His Son Jesus Christ. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans v.8) “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans viii.32) Will suffering make us bitter towards God? Will extreme sorrow or hardship make us question God’s love? Will we ever raise our fist to God’s face in anger? The apostle Paul experienced hunger, thirst, beatings, imprisonment, stoning, shipwreck and exposure for the sake of the gospel. In the end, instead of questioning God’s love, he was convinced that nothing – absolutely nothing – could make him doubt God’s love towards him. That assurance is what makes us more than conquerors even when we are neck deep in adversity.
“For your [Christ’s] sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans viii.36-39)