Happy Ash Wednesday. Who ever says that? Ash Wednesday is a day of contemplation, fasting and repentance. Which is as it should be. As we contemplate the reason for Good Friday, we realize that Christ died for US. Not for ‘them’, or ‘the Jews of His time’, or ‘The Church’, but for each one of us, personally. We had sins and trespasses and secret shames on our accounts. That debt of sin was going to keep us out of Heaven. No matter how much good we put back into the world, we could not have paid off our debt of sin. Jesus knew what He came to do. He knew that His sacrifice would benefit sinners throughout generations to come. He knew that although He could not end sin, He could end the punishment for sin: eternal separation from Father God. And he went to the cross willingly. And once again, God brought something good out of something tragic. What the Jewish and Roman leaders had meant for evil, God used for the ultimate good: the salvation of the world!
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10
While looking up verses for my Valentine’s Day lesson, I noticed something that I probably knew on some level, but God poked me to consider more deeply. There are a few different kinds of ‘love’ verses in the Bible. The ones that might come to mind first are the ‘commands for us to love’: love one another, love your neighbor, love the Lord your God. I would also include here the Love is… verses that tell us how to love. I’ve looked at these verses a lot because loving is the essence of Christianity. However, the other day I kept finding the ‘God’s love for us’ verses, and taken together they are just so powerful:
Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.
For you bless the godly, O Lord; you surround them with your shield of love.
The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.
1 John 4:16
For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
May you have power to understand how wide and long and high and deep Christ’s love is.
God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. Anyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life.
These verses prove the eternal Truth that “We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19. To be Godly is to love. To be Christ-like is to love. And not merely to love those who love you, but to love those who reject you, who disobey you, who are your enemies, who don’t understand you, who will never know you, who may never appreciate your love…your extravagant, crazy, AMAZING LOVE.
As we march into Lent, oh Lord, let us strive to show the world your unfathomable, extravagant, crazy, amazing love, and “let his banner over [us] be love.” Song of Songs 2:4