Proclaiming a loving God
The Christian religion is the only world religion that proclaims the supreme God as a loving God. The golden text of the Christian message is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” Pagan religions often conceive of the supreme being as an angry being inclined to bring severe punishment if not constantly appeased. Atheists argue that the universal suffering of the human race proves there is no such thing as a loving God for if there were, he would not allow bad things to happen to good people. In effect, they blame God for the chaos, wars, murder, and the multitude of evils that afflict humanity while the true cause of suffering in the world is human sin.
But, that it a topic for another discussion. For now consider the love of God. The Apostle John writes in 1John 4:8, “God is love.” And, in 1John 3:1 he asks his readers to seriously consider the kind of love God has for us. “What kind of love has the Father bestowed upon us?” This implies that God’s love is very special and different from the love mortals are most familiar with.
To begin with, a major proposition of the Bible is that authentic love is always costly. You cannot truly love without risk, and cost, and pain. When you lose someone or some thing dear to you, you will experience that pain and become keenly aware of love’s cost. God demonstrated His love to us by sacrificing His beloved Son that we might be restored to the loving relationship of His children that our race had forfeited by disobedience and sin.
The New Testament was originally written in the beautiful language of Greek. Greek has several words for love. Two of them commonly used in the New Testament are, agape and phileo.
Agape is best defined in that familiar verse four of First Corinthians 13 “Love (agape) is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Phileo is the kind of love that humans are most familiar with. It is the kind of love a loving parent has for their children. It is a deep concern for their well being. It is tender, personal, passionate, sometimes prejudiced and jealous, emotional, and obvious. It is the word Jesus used in John 16:27-28, “For the Father Himself loves (phileo) you, because you have loved Me.”
The amazing thing about God’s love for His children is that it is both divinely noble as agape suggests, but it is also deeply personal and passionate as phileo implies. It is the kind of love that can heal a broken-hearted world.