The Love of God

whirlwindDavid Wells has a great chapter on “The Love of God” in his latest book, God in the Whirlwind. He challenges our own ideas about what love is or is supposed to be against the biblical holy-love of God. He describes for the reader a truly amazing love that we would never be able to fathom apart from the revelation of God. And it got me thinking. I promised to love my husband on my wedding day. And as sincere and convicted as I was on that day almost 17 years ago, I had no knowledge of what that would entail. While I was ready to give a vow to love him in good times and bad, and in sickness and in health, I didn’t really know what was in store. I didn’t know if we would have good health, what kind of stresses we would encounter, or even what it was going to take for me to be a good wife. I was fresh out of college with a heart full of hope that I wanted to share with this man for the rest of my life. I took the plunge. But I was certainly imagining a life of smiles, many kisses, good decisions, and adoration, all the while glorifying God through our American dream. That got me thinking more. Before I was pregnant with our first child, I did know that the whole pregnancy/child-birth thing was going to require some sacrifices and pain. But of course, I didn’t know this empirically. I didn’t know for sure if my children would be healthy. I didn’t know what the sacrifices of parenthood really entailed. I didn’t know the way a child can break your heart and how a mom is consumed with their care and growth. But I wanted that love, so I took the plunge. I was thinking about this as Wells was describing the covenant that Christ made with the Father and the Holy Spirit to redeem a people for himself. This took the greatest of sacrifices. The Son left heavenly communion with the Father, emptied himself of all his glory, and took on human nature in the incarnation.
That he would strip away his bright glory to become not only incarnate but someone of little account, unrecognized for who he was, disparaged, rejected, and laughed at by those in power, a person of no status though he was the very center of the universe and its Creator, is an expression of humility so deep that words are inadequate to grasp it. Yet this is only part of the picture. (93)
God took on covenantal attributes to condescend to man. The true King was a target for murder by an earthly king upon his arrival. He lived as a man of sorrows. The true Prophet, the true Priest, the true Temple was mocked, misunderstood by his own disciples, betrayed, hated, and murdered. But his death was like no other. The righteous Son was made a curse so that we would receive blessing, and was the propitiation of God’s holy wrath against his bride. But Wells points out the kicker:
Are we to suppose that in the far midst of eternity, when our calling and redemption were only in the mind of God, Christ was unaware of what this would entail? Was he caught by surprise after he became incarnate? Do we ever hear him reproaching the Father for not having told him what this mission of redemption would cost? Of course not! The point about Christ’s love is that he knew. He knew from the very start. But such is this love, this self-giving, self-sacrificing, self-abasing love that he freely gave of himself to do what had to be done, knowing all that was entailed. Indeed, there is no other motive sufficient to account for what he did than his extraordinary love. For only this kind of love would pay the cost which this kind of mission required. He saw that his own self-giving reached a greater end by becoming incarnate than by not so doing. He willingly chose not to enjoy the worship of the angels in a place of utter holiness for an uninterrupted eternity for the gain that redemption would bring. (93-94)
This love would be incomprehensible to us if we didn’t have the gift of the Spirit regenerating us to spiritual life. And let me tell you, although many people may have mentioned the pain in child-birth, I was caught by surprise at the level of pain creating new life entailed. But that was just a drop in the bucket. Jesus knew it all and he paid it all. Not only that, he has ascended to the right hand of the Father where he is interceding on behalf of his bride now. Along with his Spirit, we have his holy, living Word, and the covenant community of his people, where it is preached and the holy sacraments are administered. We have the testimony of all those recorded in redemptive history, and we have the God’s people persevering alongside with us now. This reminder gives even more vigor to the exhortation: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:1-2)