The new love is all around us. It is the love that says, “I love you, therefore I want you to be happy, therefore I affirm your decisions.” We have all had conversations where people understand love in this way. “Accept who I am and who I want to be or you do not love me.” Acceptance of sexuality, morality, and belief has become the litmus test for whether or not people truly love others or are full of venomous hate. Perhaps the most quoted verse in the Bible comes from Matthew 7 where Jesus gives the command to, “Judge not.”
“See, see,”, people scream, “Jesus says that I am the sole decider of what is good, you have no right to speak otherwise.”
Is this what God really meant? Is this what God really thinks? How does God define love?
God’s love is as complex as it is deep. One of the summations of God’s character is found in 1 John 1:8 where we read that, “God is love.” Not that God values love, or God is good at love...God IS love. God’s spirit “DNA” is love. If God’s very makeup is love, then to understand what love truly is we must look at how God shows his love to humanity. What we find is the opposite of the new love. God’s love has never been a wholesale acceptance of our choices, on the contrary, all of human history is God working and moving to reverse the tragedy of our choices. In the garden, after their rebellion, God did not pat Adam and Eve on the head and tell them it was all good. He cursed them, he cursed the serpent, he cursed the ground itself, and death entered the world. God does not accept and affirm who we want to be, he is seeking to kill us. Ephesians 2 says we were born as his enemies, and God kills his enemies. We were objects of God's wrath in desperate need of his love.
Because of this need, and God's heart for us, the most striking example of God’s love actually comes conjoined with the most striking example of his wrath.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only son.” (John 3:16)
God’s love is proven by his willingness to kill his son. Not only did God not affirm and accept who we wanted to be, he was willing to crush his son (Isaiah 53:10) in order that who we are could be altered completely. In a wholesale rejection of the new love, Jesus was sent to the cross. In a striking display of his love, God sent his wrath. In the economy of heaven LOVE is God killing, by force, those things that keep us from his heart. The only hope of affirmation we have is because God rejected his son on the cross. But that rejection, at its core, was our rejection. Our demand that God affirm our choices caused the lungs of Jesus to expel the cry, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” He was rejected as he bore our demand for affirmation and acceptance in our sin. God’s full rejection of our rebellion was crushed as it sat on the shoulders of his son. Instead of killing us, God killed his son. Now, we have the beautiful invitation to be loved by God because of Jesus, but we still have to die first. You cannot stay who you are and have Jesus. That is why Paul writes,
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 ESV)
To have the love of God we must reject ourselves and surrender to Jesus. God will affirm and accept us only through Jesus.
The message of the Gospel is…
God loves you because of Jesus.
God affirms you because of Jesus.
God accepts you because of Jesus.
Only because of Jesus.
If you are loved by God it is because you have been attached by new birth to his son. Paul loves the phrase, “In Christ.” We have been so joined with Christ that we are now part of him. God affirms the son, he accepts the son, he LOVES the son. If you are, “In Christ,” that affirmation, and acceptance that the son enjoys is now your own.
Here is the hard part about God’s love for those who are in Christ. It is still seeking to crush the rebellion that is sin. Those elements of who we are that are still marked by the new love must be killed, and God will supply the force...because of his love. The Bible writers understood this tough love.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:3–6 ESV)
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
(Psalm 51:6–8 ESV)
The new love has crept into the church. I hear pastors who are beginning to paint God as a cosmic hippie wanting to make sure everyone knows how "cool" he is with them and “who they are.” The cross tells a different story. We are daily faced with a choice. Embrace the new love and demand God accept us for who we are, or we must die to who we are and embrace who Jesus is inviting us to become. One love leads to death, the other leads to God...and God is love.