God knew that humanity would struggle to see His love, so He demonstrated it through the cross. Jesus is our living proof that love gives all and that we can trust Him entirely. He is also our living example to demonstrate God’s love to others.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Love is perhaps the most powerful human motivator there is. It can empower us beyond our natural human ability in ways that defy explanation. From the very first moment of birth, we respond to an instinctive, wired-in need to love and be loved. It’s a drive that remains with us throughout life and often will lead us to search in the wrong places or with the wrong people. Love has the power to build and transform, but it also has the ability to be controlling, destructive, and manipulative. Trust is something that works together with love. They are interactive and even interdependent. Each strengthens and feeds the other in perfect balance. But in a world where distrust is cultivated as a form of self-preservation, this balance is skewed. We struggle to understand that true love gives all and gives before it’s reciprocated. God loved us first.
Trust is the reason why true love gives all.
One of the greatest hindrances to receiving salvation is this issue of trusting God. We’re conditioned by the influencers in our lives and our experiences to withhold trust until it’s earned. In our society, everything is reduced to a written contract and we’re told to read the small print. The message is that we really cannot trust anyone or anything. I’ve often heard people say we should trust family least of all. That’s a tragic commentary on the nature of man and our selfishness. Yet it’s mostly true. Honour, ethics, and loyalty seem to be more rare than ever. Our relationships follow the same trend as our ‘business’ standards. We wait until we believe the other person can be trusted with our love before we give it. Even then, we withhold the greater portion. We simply cannot grasp or live in the reality that true love gives all.
Our verse today completely upends this conventional wisdom in a picture of love and trust that is entirely contradictory. The agape love of God is our example – a love that is so perfect and so complete that it is entirely trustworthy. All too often, people bear the scars of love that betrayed trust. The greatest wounds are from those close to us, those we love and trust. These experiences colour our understanding of the fundamental truth that underpins the Gospel. When we’ve learned not to trust what we can see, hear, and feel, it’s extremely difficult to trust that which is invisible. It’s all very well to say that true love gives all. We can accept it on some level, even if it’s only as a vague spiritual wishful thinking – something to aspire to or wish for. His giving all proves He can be trusted.
True love gives all first.
What is remarkable about God’s agape love is that it’s not simply perfect and complete, withholding nothing. It’s that He gave it first, long before we even thought about Him. Relationships are built on trust, and we spend our lives building trust while loving. In one sense, we continually have to prove our trustworthiness and love with each response. We have to ‘act’ trust in order to keep trust in place. Our responses are continually ‘measured’ against what is expected. Our love is, in effect, measured by how trustworthy we remain. The result of this often misinterpretation or misunderstanding. The tenuous balance between love and trust is very vulnerable. The key word here is expectation, because that defines our interpretation. Yet God gives all first, without expectation. That is the remarkable truth that sets His agape love apart from anything humanity has to offer.
One of the most difficult truths to accept is that God loves all, the whole world, everyone. That includes the prostitutes, liars, murderers, and even the most evil despot imaginable. Christians often struggle with this truth. Yet the fact remains that, for example, if Hitler or Genghis Khan fully repented and accepted Christ, they would receive His love and forgiveness. They would worship alongside all believers in eternity. We’d like to think our sins aren’t as ‘bad,’ but sin is sin in God’s eyes. There are no degrees of sin. God loves even the ‘worst’ sinners as much as He loves the rest. In fact, His love for all is so perfect and complete that He was willing to die for them before they even knew He existed. Love gives all even when it knows that it won’t be reciprocated. Love gives all first and leaves the choice to us.
True love gives all is demonstrated.
This brings us to the full beauty of today’s verse. It provides wonderful insight into the nature of this immeasurable love. We see a God who loves so much that He sees our weakness and our inability to fully comprehend that love gives all as a spiritual truth. For this reason, He gave us His Son. In Jesus, God gave us all that He is, all that He does, and all that He can do. The Son is the full manifestation of the Father, so nothing is held back. Not only that, God’s giving love took Him to the cross, to death, and to the grave. It was giving in its entirety and giving without expectation. God demonstrated His love in the most perfect, complete, and powerful way possible. He knew that many would have to ‘see’ to believe. Also, He knew that we would struggle to see Him.
The cross was the visible, tangible demonstration of God loving first and loving completely. It provides the vital, measurable truth that His love gives all and can be trusted. He not only meets our need for love, but He pre-empts our need for trust. We can love Him because He has already proven that we can trust Him. The wisdom in this is profound. As we journey further in our walk with Him, we will find our faith tested by trial and circumstance. We will come to places where we wonder whether we can truly trust Him, or whether He truly loves us. That’s human nature, weak as it is. But the cross is our unshakeable reminder that He has already demonstrated His love to a degree that we should never question His trustworthiness. All has already been given. It’s an accomplished fact that shores up our faith.
Love gives all so sinners can receive all.
This is the pivot point of the Gospel. Everything Jesus gave on the cross was a divine exchange. It happened so we could identify with Him as He identified with us and receive His full spiritual inheritance – every promise of God that is fulfilled in Him. All leaves nothing out. It covers everything, because Jesus took our place so we could share His. The remarkable truth is that God’s love gives all because we could never earn or deserve it. We could never, in our own ability, hope to obtain it for ourselves. It’s freely given, without expectation and without conditions we can never meet. More than this, it will never be withdrawn. It’s eternal love, not temporary love. His love for us isn’t dependent on whether we meet His expectations. He loves us even though He knows that, a lot of the time, He can’t necessarily trust us.
There is erroneous understanding in the church of God’s ‘unconditional’ love. Nowhere in the Bible does it ever say that He loves us just the way we are. This error suggests that there is no need for change or transformation, that He is quite happy for us to continue as we were before salvation. The real truth is that we’re told to come as we are because He loves us despite how we are. The unconditional love teaching encourages spiritual complacency, and the result of this is that many believers do not receive the ‘all’ He has given us. To say love gives all means that God’s perfect love holds nothing back. Everything we need for life and faith is already given. If we’re not walking in it it’s because we’ve not received it. We haven’t ‘unwrapped’ it and begun to use it, making it ours.
We must live the truth that love gives all.
Today’s verse highlights the visible demonstration of God’s love through Christ and the cross. This demonstration is an eternal event, but it also lives on in each one of us. Jesus is in us, and His work continues through us. In Him, our purpose is to reveal the glory and power of God but also His love. It’s a challenge, because we’re called on to love even the unlovely as He did. Love gives all isn’t only about us receiving. It’s about us giving freely of all we are and have. We are to live the second commandment to love others with the same complete passion with which we live the first to love God. Our demonstration of God’s love to the world includes receiving from Him and giving His love to others. We are the tangible evidence of the cross and a love that is perfect and complete.
Thank You, Lord, that You’re so much greater than the ‘rules’ and expectations of the world. Thank You for Your eternal, all-encompassing love that we could never earn or deserve. Help us to walk in the truth that You can be trusted in all things and circumstances. Most of all, help us to love others with Your perfect love, holding nothing back, so that You can be revealed in all we do and say.