Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow airport. General opinion makes out that we live in a world of hatred and greed I don't see that.
Seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy but it's always there. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends.
When the planes hit the Twin Towers, none of the phone calls from people on board were messages of hate or revenge, they were all messages of love.
lf you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around.'
So says Hugh Grant's Prime Minister at the start of the film Love Actually. Is he right? Where do we find love? We want it, but what is love?
Is God love? Certainly people seem to think so. And we like the idea of God being love. No one is offended to hear that God loves them. In fact, rightly or wrongly, it makes us feel good. Whether we believe it, it appeals to us.
Others object. Does God really love us? Unlike Hugh Grant we can't brush greed and hatred and terrorism under the carpet. We see it. We experience it. If God is so loving why hasn't he done something about it!
Others say, Yes I get the idea. But I don't experience it. God seems distant. Isn't God indifferent to his creation? Not concerned for us? How do we really know God's love?
Look with me at 1 John 4v10.
Two things to see about God's love.
Firstly – “God's love stepped in”
We wonder if God is too distant for love. Too “other”. Too “holy” for us to know love from him? But he isn't remote. God sent his Son into this world. Into this fallen, marred world. Into history. Into his world.
If I want to communicate and relate to you I could send you an email, I could write or phone. But the best expression would be for me to visit you in person.
And God has done that, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. But it wasn't just a gesture...
Secondly – “God's love saves”
The Son of God came into the world. And we didn't worship him. We didn't revere and celebrate him. We killed him on a Roman Cross. Why?
Was it a tragic mistake? No this was God's plan. He sent his Son into history for this very purpose. Sent to be a “sacrifice of atonement for our sins”. A what?
That needs some explaining! Two things:
One: Jesus taking our place.
Two: Jesus bears God's wrath.Jesus takes our place. We're familiar with the idea of a substitute.
We know it from sport – one player takes the place of another... But don't take the illustration too far – this isn't sport. Where then?
Jesus bears God's wrath. The NIV footnote defines the term for us helpfully. It means that Jesus is - “the one who turns aside wrath”.
Jesus takes our place under God's wrath. Wrath due because of our sin. Not petty or rash anger... but righteous anger. Wrath that is exactly what our sin deserves.
It is in the face of his own wrath that God's love is stirred. Love so amazing, so divine that he does not remain distant.
No, he comes into his world to save his people from his wrath. Opening the way for us to come to eternal life with himself. Eternity seeing and savouring the Son.
What is love? Love is not firstly our love for one another. Nor is it our love for God. We must turn away from ourselves and look to God's love sending his son to bear his wrath in our place.
What do we do with this?
2. 4v11 says, since we are loved by God, let us love one another sacrificially.
3. 5v13 says, that John writes his letter - so that we would know that we have eternal life. When we're overwhelmed by the hatred and greed in the world, and in ourselves... when God feels remote and distant.... we don't look to our love for God, but to his love for us at the Cross.
Love actually is God sending his son to bear his wrath in our place.
Recommended: Expositional Listening - Thabiti Anyabwile