Parents, do you love your children? Husbands, do you love your wives? Children, do you love your parents? How about your friends? Grandparents? Extended family members? Your team’s star quarterback? Your pastor? Your neighbor who shovels your section of the sidewalk after his own in winter?
Do you love Jihadi John, the ISIS crony who oversaw the beheadings of Coptic Christians? Or Chris Harper-Mercer, who killed nine people at Umpqua Community College in Oregon? Do you love the husband who cheated on you? Or the wife? Do you love the sibling who turned his or her back on you in a time of dire need? Or perhaps one who in their time of need used and abused you?
It’s very easy for us to love those who are on our side in life. Husbands and wives typically have the other’s back. Children take care of their parents as they grow older, just as parents cared for them in their youth. The very nature of things tells us to love the people in life who love us in return.
God shows for us a much different love. This is a love which infinitely supersedes all others. Unlike human love, which extends to those who we find favorable, God’s love extends precisely to those whom he finds entirely unfavorable.
“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 man, though for a good man 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” (Romans 5:6-8).
Let’s take a step back from condemning all those “bad people” out there—the jihadists, the child molesters, the meth dealers—and consider the picture as God sees it. While we correctly call such people “unrighteous”—that is, having fallen short of living up to God’s standards—we often forget the rest of the crew.
Ourselves. Our little children. Our elderly grandmothers. Our generous friends.
Traitors. Rebels. Scumbags.
Reality is a harsh thing. The mewling infant fresh out of the womb, swaddled in her blankets and sleeping peacefully, is kicking and screaming against her Creator. The grandmotherly figure who lives next door and generously gives you fresh vegetables from her garden—a rebel and a traitor in the worst degree. You, who are a friendly friend and a neighborly neighbor, who care for injured animals, who provide for your family—an opponent of God Most High.
Only when we realize the truth of the matter, the truth that we all, by our natures, have turned traitor against our heavenly King, can we also come to understand God’s love. His love is unique.
“Unique” is an often improperly used word in our vocabularies. You might say that your gal-pal’s neon orange car is a “unique” color. You might also say that your fingerprint is “unique.” Only the latter statement is true. A neon-orange vehicle might be unusual, but it is not unique. That word “unique” denotes something that is truly “one-of-a-kind,” the only thing of that quality in existence, such as your fingerprint pattern.
When we talk about God’s love, it certainly is unique, one-of-a-kind, unparalleled, and incomparable. Romeo and Juliet have got nothing on this love! Sorry, moms, but even you can’t love your infant child with a fraction of the incomprehensible magnanimity with which God loves us! “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Isaiah 49:15, emphasis mine). His love is far beyond the comprehension or abilities of any sinful human being.
That unique love is shown in this: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
You might be able to imagine taking a bullet for your best friend. How many of you would take a bullet for the guy who murdered your best friend? You might even (if you are among the noblest people humanity has to offer) suffer a death sentence in place of another if you loved him enough. How many of you would sit in the electric chair to secure the release of a stranger convicted on multiple counts of rape and homicide?
Now consider the magnitude of all the offenses of all people of all time directed personally against you alone. Because that’s the situation here. We don’t sin only against people, but against God himself. David writes, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4). Every sin of every person collectively is heaped together as a direct offense against the Lord God. When we consider that we have sinned against the one who is both just and has all power—well, let’s just say that the consequences should be extremely dire for us!
But this unique love of God, which culminates in the death of his Son Jesus, gives a traitor like me the opposite of what I deserve. Instead, Jesus suffers the punishment for it all.
We cannot imagine what it must feel like to suffer hell. But when we realize that whatever excruciating pain we have experienced in our lives does not even begin to compare with Christ’s suffering—well, I think you get the picture. That, friends, is a whole lotta love.
Yet the love doesn’t stop there only at the removal of punishment. We haven’t turned from being a moral negative into a moral neutral. God demonstrates again just how above and beyond his own love transcends!
He does this by making me a moral positive. He does this by giving me Christ’s own righteousness to wear as my own. This is a righteousness which not only delivers me from death, but credits to me life and salvation.
More on this concept to come! Let’s end this entry with one more passage to put the exclamation point on God’s unique love, by which he himself dies in the place of traitors. Romans 5:10: “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”
What a mind-blowing, incredible story God makes us a part of!