THE TRUE LOVE OF THE GOSPEL
All of us know the difference between fake love and true love. In fake love, our aim is to use the person we say we love to fulfill our own happiness. Our love is conditional. We give it as long as the other person is affirming us and meeting our needs. Fake love is non-vulnerable. We hold back so that we can cut our losses if necessary and move on. But in true love, we spend ourselves and use ourselves for another, because our greatest joy is that person’s joy. This means true love is unconditional. We give it regardless of whether our loved one is meeting our needs, and it is completely vulnerable, you spend it all and give it all away.
When it comes to love our problem is that none of us is fully capable of giving true love. We want it desperately but can’t get it. We’re all starved for it, and we all know that we need it so badly we can never love without needing something in return. So, what we need is someone who doesn’t need us at all, someone who loves us for our own sake. So that when that person loved us, we would know that we are valuable, we could be filled with that love, and then we could freely give that love to others. But who can do that?
Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the one true and living God, is the only one who loves us this way. God is one in three and three in one. He is love within himself. He created us and redeems us at the greatest cost to himself not because he needs us, but because he loves us. It is this radical, unconditional, perfectly vulnerable love that frees us to start loving God and loving others as we should. It is this love that allows us to experience and then give true love.
Jesus’ sacrifice, his death on the cross for our sins, frees and forgives us of our sin against God when we turn to him in repentance and faith. Jesus pays the debt we owe God for our sin, for every way we have disobeyed him and rejected him, whether we did it knowingly or not. Imagine if someone comes into your house and breaks your TV. Either you make him pay for it or you say, “I forgive you, it’s ok.” But in the latter case, someone still has to pay. Either your friend pays and absorbs the cost, or you do.
This is true with everything. If someone robs you of an opportunity, of happiness, of reputation, or anything else, there is a debt. Justice has been violated, and either they will pay or you will pay. Forgiveness is costly, and the more it costs the harder it is. When it comes to God, all of us have wronged him. We owe him for every sin, but we can never make it up to him. So, either we can try to pay for our sins ourselves, which we can never do, or God can pay the penalty himself. This is what he does on the cross. Jesus absorbs the punishment that we deserve and pays the debt we owe so we can have life in him.
This had to happen on the cross. Jesus just couldn’t have thrown himself off a cliff or died of old age. Jesus’ death was a violent one. His life was taken from him by the best humanity has to offer. By submitting to this kind of death, Jesus broke the hold death has over us; he gained victory over it and turned the values of this world upside down. Jesus is the King who wins with grace. He didn’t raise an army to bring down the latest corrupt government. He didn’t take his kingdom through raw power, but instead triumphed through grace. He died and rose from the dead to free us from the worst this world can do to us, which is to put us to death. This is true love. And when we experience this grace, this is what allows us to love others.
This true love is the gospel, the good news we all need to hear, believe, and live. It is only by embracing this truth and making Jesus our first love that we are able to be who we should be and love as we should love.