So God loves spectacularly, he loves like crazy when compared to this world’s love. The love that existed in the heart of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, could not be held back by our sin and rebellion. It led to God becoming flesh, being tempted like we are, confronting the powers of darkness, being despised and rejected, and ultimately, shamefully, being crucified on a cross as if we’re a criminal. Staggering, stupendous love, displayed and demonstrated from the incarnation through to the ascension. A love so high, so wide, so deep we cannot measure it.
And the staggering thing is, he calls us to experience it in all its glorious fullness. And then he calls us to love in the same way. Kingdom loving is radical loving, loving like God does, like he loves you! That’s what the sermon on the mount is about, not another list of rules and regulations but learning how to love like God loves.
Three essential components of love
There are three essential components to loving like God loves: mercy, grace and forgiveness, all of which are part of our experience of knowing God through Jesus Christ and the gift of the Spirit.
● Mercy is about the withholding of deserved punishment, Dallas Willard refers to it as pity because mercy has been “robbed … of its deep, traditional meaning which is the same as pity.” We might say it’s gotten all nice and religious. God had pity on us. That doesn’t feel good does it, it’s not enobling is it? Pity puts us where we really are, lost, helpless, hopeless, deserving of punishment. But in his love he has pity on us (he feels sorry for us) and steps in to deliver us from what we deserve.
● Grace on the other hand is about the receiving of undeserved blessing. Did you hear that undeserved blessing? You, I, do not deserve any of it, but God in his love has stepped in order to bless us with what we don’t deserve, such is his heart. And what a blessing we have received!
● Thirdly, forgiveness is the key to both. Without it mercy/pity cannot be experienced. Without it blessing will not be given and received. God forgave.
Now to drive it home, you, I, have rejoiced at the way God loves us, yet how often have we not done the same for others? We have withheld, mercy, and certainly not wanted certain people to be blessed, no, maybe we’ve even thought they should be punished in some way, after all they deserve it for saying or doing what they did, don’t they?
The Greek word agape means to love unconditionally. It originates in God. It is about the preciousness of the one loved. It has no prior claim. Its a love that will go on loving even when there’s failure, let down, no response – it has no conditions to it. It is a consuming passion for the well being of the other/s, “to will the good of another” (Thoma Aquinas).
To not love like this makes us no better than those who don’t know Jesus. Jesus calls us to something greater, more radical, to loving not just our family and friends but also our enemies. Our relationship with God and one another is closely tied. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he not only taught them to say “Our Father… Forgive us… ” he also said “as we forgive those who are indebted/sinned against us…”
Radical love leads to radical forgiveness. The kingdom necessitates it. Without it there is disappointment, division and destruction in marriages, families, friendships, business partnerships, and churches. Not only that, when we don’t forgive we are filled with bitterness and resentment, and any sense of gratefulness goes out the window, peace and joy are a distant memory and we are disempowered to live lives of fruitfulness as it eats away at our very core.
In the Lord’s prayer forgiveness and daily bread run side by side with one another, both are essentials to daily life.
We ask forgiveness on the basis of our forgiving,
• Forgiveness for our debts, things we should have done but we haven’t – our unfulfilled responsibilities to God and others.
• Forgiveness for our trespasses, things we shouldn’t have done that we have, those things that are not in harmony with God’s will.
But we do so on the basis of the kingdom principle that we have…
• Forgiven others who we deem haven’t done what they should have, i.e. an action, said sorry, etc…
• Forgiven others who have wronged or hurt us in some way, said or done something that has caused us pain.
If we can’t do this then we have not understood something at the very core of the gospel of the kingdom, this radical love that God has shown us, love that didn’t wait for an apology, change of lifestyle etc. But a love shown to us in all our rebellion and brokenness.
Unless we are able to forgive one another and seek God’s forgiveness we are unable to live together. Through forgiveness we find that all the bitterness and resentment, the desire for revenge is syphoned off enabling it to be replaced with a genuine compassion. It doesn’t excuse behaviour but prevents it destroying your heart and puts you in a position to deal constructively with it, by not dehumanising the other, another made in the image of God and broken by the Fall.
Mercy – withheld punishment; Grace – undeserved blessing… Forgiveness – words and actions that make mercy and grace real and dynamic… Sharing in the love of God. Sharing the love of God.
- Who do you need to love like God loves?
- Who do you need to forgive?
- Who do you need to show mercy to?
- Who do you need to bless?