Friday, September 17, 2010

God So Loved

By S. Michael Durham

Note the distinctive adverb used: “God so loved.” He did not just love, but He “so loved.” There is an eternity in the word so. Jesus could have said to Nicodemus, “For God loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son . . .” and we would have accepted it. But Jesus adds the word so to make a statement. The Father’s love is much more than we can fathom. He did not just love us; He so loved us.

The degree of His love is seen in what He gave—He gave us His only begotten Son. He did not summon heaven’s angels and chose one of them to die. He did not look upon the celestial crowd and say to Himself, “Which of these do I love the least that I can sacrifice for men? Which of these can I spare and give up for the elect?” No, this He did not do. Rather, He looked to His right hand and upon His most beloved. He looked to Him who is more valuable than all the angels of heaven.

The Puritan John Flavel, quoting an unnamed author, tells of a famine in Germany and a poor family who wrestled with the decision to sell one of their children into slavery in order to buy food. Here is Flavel telling the story.

A poor family being ready to perish with famine, the husband made a motion to the wife, to sell one of the children for bread, to relieve themselves and the rest: The wife at last consents it should be so; but then they began to think which of the four should be sold; and when the eldest was named, they both refused to part with that, being their first born, and the beginning of their strength. Well, then they came to the second, but could not yield that he should be sold, being the very picture and lively image of his father. The third was named, but that also was a child that best resembled the mother. And when the youngest was thought on, that was the Benjamin, the child of their old age; and so were content rather to perish altogether in the famine, than to part with a child for relief.

How do you part with one child to save the remaining children? Which one do you choose? The one you love the least? But you do not love one the least. You love them all and each for their distinctive reasons. You could not so choose. Yet, God the Father willingly yielded His Son to the tormentors that He might save His enemies. The Father joined Jesus’ persecutors and rejected Him and tormented Him with the torment of the damned. Not only does it not compute; it is contrary to our own hearts as parents. “For God so loved.”

If you are a cold, calculated mathematician or accountant, you could say that you let the math answer the question—one for the many. Give up the one and get many in return. It’s the law of investment. If you are a politician you could reason the sacrifice of one political ally to gain many more allies. If you are a Caiaphas you can think, “it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish” (John 11:50).

But we are not talking about accountants or mercenary politicians. We are talking about God Almighty who loved His Son Jesus more than all of His creation and yet is willing to sacrifice Him because He so loved us. How do I get this?

Well, that is my dilemma. I cannot fathom God loving us to this degree. It baffles the mind but blesses the heart. My mind cannot understand it but my heart can believe it. And believe we must.

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