There is a song called “The Rose” that compares love to a river or a flower. The lyrics describe love as something that can cut you or drown you or an endless, aching need. So many people feel this version of imperfect love, and the devil uses this human substitute for love to wreck lives and families and to try to turn God’s people away from real, perfect love.
God’s perfect love is like a well. His love runs infinitely deep, and it provides us the very substinence we need to survive. The living water provided by Jesus refreshes our soul and equips us for our journey.
God loves you deeply. Regardless of what we have done or where we have been, God loves us. Regardless of what others have said or how others have made us feel, God loves us. He sent His son to save us (John 3:16).
God does not expect to find us in some weird prideful state where we feel worthy to be loved, but in a desperate state where we fully understand that we have messed up (sinned) and are not so lovable. Take a few minutes and read Luke 15. God seeks us when we have strayed. Unlike human love, God’s love does not turn away from us even when we become filty and unlovable like the prodigal son – even if we become bitter Christians like the older son in the story.
This perfect love inspires forgiveness of others who have wronged us. The one who has wronged me does not owe me an apology or anything else because, if my love is to be like Christ, then I must give that love, and accompanying forgiveness, freely. It’s a struggle, for sure. My imperfect love is never enough, but my reflection of His love truly can be if I allow it to shine through.
A few weeks ago, I watched 3 different, consecutive sermons on love on one Sunday morning. During the pandemic, I’m in the custom of watching my home church and the church where my friends pastor. I’ve added my daughter’s college church while she is home. The services follow each other in succession and are geographically dispersed and worship style diverse. With the repetition in the three pastor’s sermons, I knew this concept of love was important for me to hear.
Today, the first two sermons from the same churches were, again, on the gift of love, but it was the third seeming unrelated message that gave me the final piece of the puzzle. The final sermon, “When God is Second” asked if God was the absolute first priority in our lives, our first love. The message from Haggai 1.
1 In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jozadak,[a] the high priest:
2 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’”
3 Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”
5 Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
7 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. 9 “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”
12 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord.
13 Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, gave this message of the Lord to the people: “I am with you,” declares the Lord. 14 So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God, 15 on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month.
Last year, I made a new year’s resolution to listen more to the gentle prompting of the Holy Spirit in my life. I was thinking that God might ask me to give a homeless person a sandwich; instead, He invited me on a deeper spiritual journey that I am still just beginning. The journey is unveiled in steps.
This year, I want to further that spiritual relationship by focusing and being intentional in making God my first priority. With a God who loves me so deeply, why would I want to do anything else? In the time of pandemic, I desire to be part of the faithful remnant that God uses to usher us back into a season of blessing. Will you join me? I don’t know what the journey looks like, but I know that we are deeply, deeply loved. For me, that is enough.