God’s Radical Love (Even For His Enemies)

Hi, okay! Time to start another topic that I’ve been looking forward to getting into for a little bit! I have a couple things to share about the miraculousness of God’s radical love, so stick around for a bit. This post should be a 10 minute read.

Okay, let’s start with our first aspect and all of our favorite bible verses ;P

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Alright, let’s break this down.  First, let’s ask the question: “Which came first – God’s love or Jesus on the cross?”

A lot of Christians, including me in the beginning of my Christian walk, drawing from people’s emphasis on the God of judgment and hell, have a hard time intuitively understanding this concept.  But, as we can see, the reason offered for God giving his Son is actually God’s love.

God’s love preceded Jesus’s sacrifice.

What reason does God have to love this world, however?

According to the Biblical story, God intended us to be co-rulers with him, taking care of his good world and creating good things with him.  However, the world has flipped a middle finger at him instead and went off to seek our pleasure from whatever we want, creating whatever we want, not giving a **** about what he intended his good creation to be.

We seek pleasure and status from others – and many actually exploit others for their own gain. However, we’ve all participated in such behavior, at least in our hearts.  How often have you sat next to someone without any thought about how it would affect your status, and if that person was “worth your time?”

Not saying this to throw shade on any of you guys, because I myself am “chief of sinners.” But, just trying to say, we’ve all messed up God’s good creation and pursued wicked and evil thoughts in our hearts, trying to claw our way to pleasure and fulfillment on our own terms, giving no thought to God. In fact, many of us treat him as if he doesn’t exist. (For the sake of argument, I’m assuming that these people believe in him).

And, yet, even others choose to be direct enemies of God, like the apostle Paul used to be – he would carry off Christians to prison, constantly breathing murderous threats against them. I myself, admittedly, have been a part of this category.  Though I never went to the religious extreme that Paul went to, I myself was a militant atheist whose objective was to undermine all Christians’ beliefs and convince them of how stupid it is to believe in a God.  I in fact may have played a large role in my sister walking away from practicing the faith. In Jesus’s own words:

Mark 9:42 “If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.”

So, I have brought the utmost of condemnation upon myself. I have received the death penalty in even such a gruesome fashion.

Now, I ask the question: What reason does God have to love me?

He’d seemingly have every reason to hate me: I’m mocking him and deriding his children at every turn, trying to get people to turn from the faith, even causing my own sister to stumble. Not to mention all the sin going on in my life aside from that. I was the very definition of one “in rebellion against God.”

Yet, what does God say?

Romans 5: 6- 8 “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Just let that sink in for a second. Go on, read it again.

It freaking gives me the chills and makes me tear up. Paul, the very man who wrote this, was the same one who was dragging Christians off to prison and casting his votes for their executions.

So, let me break this verse down as well. My interpretation of “righteous person” is “a person who does no wrong.” My interpretation of “Good person” is someone who actively tries to do good to others in the world.

Yet our God demonstrates himself to be one who LOVES AND DIES FOR HIS VERY ENEMIES.

Such a concept is unfathomable and yet glorious.  It brings me to my knees and causes me to worship.

Our God forgives his enemies by dying in their place, even when they don’t deserve it at all!

What did Jesus say to those who crucified him?

Luke 23:33-34 “When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals–one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”

What are the Roman soldiers doing that deserves forgiveness? Pardon the language, but they don’t give a shit!!

He’s up there praying for their forgiveness, and they’re down there gambling for his clothes!

God’s love is unbelievably radical and unbelievably undeserved.

So let us ask this question: Where does God’s love come from? Why does he love, since it clearly is not based on the merit of the recipients?

To answer this question, we turn to a letter which one of Jesus’s closest disciples wrote years later, one of those who were watching him struggle in agonizing pain on the cross.

The short answer is: God loves all people, even sinners, even those who don’t deserve it AT ALL, because he IS love.

1 John 4:8 “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

John’s puzzling answer…is that God IS love. Now, the context of this passage is actually John writing to some that claim to love God but aren’t loving their brothers in the church – but I think the message is still applicable: God is love.

Alright, let’s unpack that. What does that mean?

Well, here’s how I take it: God has a lot of qualities, a lot of attributes: Holiness, Justness, Mercy, Grace, Power, etc. But, each one of these is a concept. None of these is described as the very thing that describes the identity of our God. Never in the Bible does it say “God is Holiness.”  We hear, “God is holy,” as a descriptive word, but not as an identifier like “God is love.”

God’s love through the Trinity

Okay, so we can take this to mean this: Love is a part of God’s identity in a very meaningful way.  Now, let’s expound upon that by bringing in the doctrine of the Trinity.  Christian doctrine states that God is one, and yet is three different persons: the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. (Yes, the Holy Spirit is a person, not an ethereal power.)  We know that these three existed in a perfect love relationship causally prior to the creation of the universe:

From John 17:  And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began…I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

So we can see that there is a unity that exists between the three persons of God. I would say that this unity is actually a component of biblical love. Additionally, the tender tone of Jesus’s words is worth noting. He is truly speaking to his treasured father.

So, as you can see, part of the identity of God is this – three persons in perfect unity, in a perfect love relationship. Love simply emanates off of them, because God IS love.  The love relationship between the three persons is a crucial part of God’s identity.

Alright, so what does that have to do with God’s love for us? We’re not part of the Trinity, we’re an other.

Well, actually, the reason man was created was actually not only to be a co-ruler with God and do good, but also to be in a perfect love relationship with God as well.

We were meant to be a part of God’s shared love – invited into the love of the Trinity.

Additionally, God emanates love because he IS love. It is a fundamental part of nature that God loves. In fact, God’s other qualities are colored and affected by his central nature of love.  His justice is colored by his love – he cannot let the wicked go unpunished, as to do so would be unloving to those who are abused.  Yet, he chooses to be merciful, because he loves even the trangressor and the sinner. Jesus says as much:

Luke 6:35 “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

So, I would say the most important part here is “Then…you will be Children of the Most High.”  What does that mean?  If we love our enemies, we will be children of the Most High?

I would actually say that this is not referring to the status of being God’s children – given to sinners who accept Christ through faith.

My interpretation is this:

John 8:39-40“Abraham is our father,” they answered.

“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things.”

The specific context here is not my point – but rather the principle. One of Jesus’s fundamental axioms of logic is that if someone is your father symbolically, you will emulate them in your actions and attitudes.

I say attitudes because of verse 40: “Abraham did not do such things.” Jesus is contrasting the attitude of the Jews who aren’t believing him with the attitude of Abraham, who submitted himself humbly before God.

Okay, let’s bring that axiom back and apply it to the previous verse.

Luke 6:35 “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

“A Father’s children will emulate them in their actions and attitudes.”

“You will be children of the Most High.”

Put those two logical statements together and you get:

“You, as God’s children, will emulate the actions and attitudes of God.”

Adding that to the rest of the verse you get: “The actions and attitudes of God are loving his enemies, doing good to them, and lending to them without expecting to get anything back…being kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.”

God is kind to his enemies from the heart. He loves his enemies, does good for them, and lends to them without expecting to get anything back (Giving people blessings regardless of their obedience). He’s kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

So, let’s synthesize everything we learned so far to get a bit of a concept of what God’s love looks like and what its nature is.

  • God loved and died for his very enemies, so they could have eternal life with him. (John 3:16)
  • God loves sinners who don’t deserve it at all. (Romans 5:8)
  • God loves us because he is love – he exists in a perfect love relationship of unity between three persons and he wants to bring all people into that love. (1 John 4:8, John 17).
  • God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked and loves his enemies. (Luke 6:35)

Radical, isn’t it? Isn’t it crazy? Isn’t it amazing? I still cannot understand it. But I don’t have to. I echo this prayer with Paul:

Eph 3:17 And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 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, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

May this be true for me too. I have yet to even come close to understanding the riches and deepness of the love of Christ and God.

If God’s love was an ocean, I have understood one drop. Let us continually pray to understand and know and appreciate God’s love more.

And, what a glorious day it’ll be when Christ establishes his new kingdom of peace where we’ll see him face to face and see this love, day after day, learning more and more. Or perhaps we will comprehend the fullness of it, and be utterly overwhelmed with emotion and awe.

How should we respond?

Response for the Non-christian:

Man, if you’re like I was and never understood the love of Christ, drop to your knees on the floor and pray. The very moment I comprehended God’s amazing love for me for the first time was the moment I realized I could trust Jesus with my life – if he loved me enough to die for me while I was THAT much of a sinner, he’s worthy to be followed.

Follow Jesus.  Listen and learn from his words. Be shaped by his commands. He promises everlasting riches and joy in his presence.

A love poem from David:

Psalm 63: 

You, God, are my God,
    earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
    my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
    where there is no water.

I have seen you in the sanctuary
    and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
    my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
    and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
    with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

And one of Jesus’s last altar calls on earth:

John 7:37-38 “On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

Response of Jesus’s Disciples:

What should be the response of those who are willing to be disciples of Jesus?

From 1 John 4 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God…This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

Love one another. Love your neighbor. Love your enemies. Love.

Matthew 22:34-40 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

From Paul:

Romans 13:8 “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”

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