Written by Ally Ley
How often have you heard the phrase: “God is love”? While there is deep truth to that sweet little saying, it’s used so much and love itself is so often distorted that I wonder if we even know what we mean when we say it?
I’ve believed in God for as long as I can remember, yet actually embracing this whole “love thing” has been a really recent experience for me. I knew all the verses, all the reasons, all the right things to say about God’s love and God being love and God giving love, but in reality, God seemed harsh, distant and perpetually disappointed with my inability to “get my act together.” There was such a divide between what I knew to be truth in my head and what I experienced in my heart.
And since no one talked about this disconnect, I thought I was the only one who missed the memo on feeling God’s love.
Honestly, when I pictured God looking down on me, the last thing I could imagine God feeling was love. I thought God loved me because God had to love me.
This lie is one of the biggest weapons those opposed to God can use: the nagging suspicion that God isn’t really good…God isn’t really for you…God doesn’t really love you unconditionally. It’s the core of what the serpent used to deceive Eve and Adam in the Garden in Genesis 3 and the same voice continues to whisper these lies to us today.
Yet the incarnation – God becoming flesh and blood and moving into the neighborhood as The Message paraphrases John 1:14 – shatters this thinking that often lies beneath the surface for many of us Christians. The incarnation puts literal skin and bones on the phrase “God is love.” In the person of Jesus Christ, God enters into the midst and the mess of creation as the complete and total embodiment of love.
The thing is, you can know all about this but not really know it. I lived the disconnect for years. There’s a big difference between knowing about in your head and knowing as deeply lived experience in your heart.
The kind of love on dazzling display in the incarnation is love that can only be received. We hustle all day for worth and status and approval and confuse these things for love. Yet love, in its pure, unconditional form, is freely given and therefore must be freely received.
The author of 1 John writes: “We love because He first loved us.” Many of us try and try and try to give away love we’ve never allowed ourselves to receive.
We often pray, “Lord, help me to love this person like you love them,” which isn’t bad. But if like 1 John 4:19 says, we love because God first loved us, then we must begin to receive the love God has for each of us…personally.
This final week of Advent, in the thick of all the excitement and activity, consider this prayer instead:
“Lord, help me to receive Your love for me today. Open my eyes and my ears and my heart in the midst of this hectic holiday season to pay attention to all the ways You love me personally.”
The incarnation is the ultimate declaration that God truly is love – not as a blanket theological statement but as a personal reality of flesh and blood inviting you to deeply know, not just know about.