The love of God is the greatest love that we will ever know. Throughout the Bible, there are many expressions and examples of God’s love. The greatest expression of it that we will ever experience is the sacrificing of His Son. John 3:16 tells us: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” As a result of this selfless act, we know that God loves us. He is our Father and wants us to know the love of a father. In this quarter, we will examine what it means to love God unconditionally. Our students need to see how God demonstrates His love in the Bible and what that love means for us today.
Love is a part of God’s nature. The Bible tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8), and love is a key theme. In the beginning, God’s love for man compels Him to create a helpmeet for him in the form of woman. God sets Adam and Eve in the Garden and gives them all of the advantages of being His children. They were given direction and guidance, as a father gives his children. When they did wrong, He did not destroy them. He just deprived them of the privileges of being His children. They were forced to fend for themselves, experiencing some pain and suffering along the way. But He promised them that their children would get an opportunity to return to Him—by way of His Son, who was going to come to earth and reconcile them back to God. That was all part of the plan, to demonstrate the love that God had for them and for us.
God gives the Israelites clear instruction: “And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5, NLT). This is the greatest commandment of the Old Testament. The Israelites were instructed to love God with their all. God prepared them in the wilderness to go into the Promised Land. He reminded them that He chose them just because: “The LORD did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! Rather, it was simply that the LORD loves you” (from Deuteronomy 7:7-8, NLT). It was that simple. The love of God was demonstrated in that He saved them from a life of slavery and death. They were delivered and brought into the land of promise, which had been given first to Abraham and now to his children. God was fulfilling His promise.
He gave the Israelites the Law by which they were to be governed, but these laws were to be summed up in terms of love: Love God, and love our neighbor (Matthew 22:34-40, NLT). Who is our neighbor? Anyone who gives us an opportunity to show God’s love (Luke 10:29-37). Love is to be shown as a response to a need. We are even commanded to love our enemies (Luke 6:27-36).
As teachers of the Word of God, we would be remiss if we did not look at Jesus Christ as the perfect example of God’s love for us. Throughout the Old Testament, we see God’s love demonstrated in the promise of the Savior:
“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!” (Isaiah 9:6-7, NLT).
Jesus was promised from the beginning, in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned before God: “And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15, NLT). Jesus had to come and die so that man could be reconciled with God. Relationship was restored with the coming of Jesus Christ. God sent His Son because of His great love for us.
The love of God also helps us to understand what love really means. Throughout the Bible, we see agape love demonstrated. In its more formal sense, agapao is often used as “the love of God.” We understand it as the unconditional, divine love of God. This is the love that God shows us and the love that we show mankind. We cannot do anything to gain or receive this love; it is given because of who we are and whose we are. When we love our brother, we are showing the love of God. When we make sacrifices for one another, thinking of others before ourselves, we are doing what He would have us to do. Our students must understand that God’s love is for everyone and we are to share it. The best way we can show this love is to share the Gospel with those who may not be aware. We are motivated to share that love with others because “Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life” (from 2 Corinthians 5:14, NLT). Accepting Jesus is an act of sacrifice, exemplifying the love of God. Romans 10:9 (NLT) states: “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” When we believe in our heart, we are internalizing the fact that God loves us and we desire to do what pleases God.
“The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it” (from Deuteronomy 30:14, NLT). Our heart is the center of our thoughts and actions. Where our heart is, that is where we are, “For whatever is in your heart determines what you say” (from Matthew 12:34).
We must recognize that God is the source of love. Just as we are recipients of His love, we must also be conduits for it. Others must see the love of Christ in both action and deed. Believers must be determined to share what God has already shared with us, His Son. Throughout His life on earth, Jesus Christ exemplified the love of the Father. He taught that God is love. He healed through the love of God. He corrected in the love of God. Everywhere He went, He was prepared to do the will of the Father, for He declared that He must do the works of the one who sent Him while it is day; “the night is coming and then no one can work” (from John 9:4, NLT). And we must do the same.
We are also commanded to exemplify the love of God through our acts of service to one another. In Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians about spiritual gifts, he says that we must operate in love (1 Corinthians 13). In the church, we must be prepared to receive those who are in despair, looking for the light that resides in us. We are encouraged to keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 21). What better way to do this than by the fruit of the Spirit: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there” (Galatians 5:22-24, NLT).
These are principles that we can use in our daily walk, where we demonstrate our character. Our character should never come into question as long as we live by the love of the Lord. And if we love God the way we say we do, there should be no incident. Everything we do, should be done to please the Father. What better way to do this than to show love to our fellow man as God requires us. We must be prepared to teach our students that God is love. Through examples in the Bible, we can demonstrate that love must be the reality of everything that we do, both in word and deed. Throughout the biblical text, we have examples of how to live a life of love. We under-stand it to be a selfless act. Jesus Christ is the greatest example we can ever have, in that He loved us enough to provide the ultimate example: Himself.