Anytime people love each other, it’s a miracle. It’s easy for us to affirm such a statement, given humanity’s penchant for conflict and violence. On the world level, violence and terrorism have become the norm (though you wouldn’t know it by watching either parties political convention), the rumors of war with Iran indicate a miracle is needed to avert further war. But anti-love is not just the norm in the political world, it’s also the norm closer to home. Churches gravitate toward conflict, family systems major in bickering, we celebrate 60th anniversaries with curiosity and wonder, not because they are God’s will for us all.
It is indeed a miracle when God’s people love each other! The New Testament authors suggest s much, “First we were loved, and now we love.” 1 John 4:19. The outpouring of God’s love upon people transforms them at the very core of their being, so much so Jesus related our transformation to a “new birth.” As we experience God’s love, our character changes. The substance of our very being takes on the form of love. Our capacity to care multiples.
Perhaps then, it would be better to speak of the “miracles” of love. For it’s a miracle that God would choose to love us! As Anne Lamont says, “Thank goodness God’s standards are so low, otherwise how in the world could he ever love me?”
This miraculous, beautiful, empowering love radically changes us, freeing us to naturally love our neighbor as ourself. Like a drop of water that ripples out into ever widening circles of love for self, family, neighbor and even enemy: God’s love for us makes it possible for us to love as well.
One of the most dynamic images scripture provides to illustrate the miracle of love is the fruit bearing tree. “An apple tree does not produce cherries.” Good fruit (the second miracle) only comes from those trees and people who have experienced the miracle of God’s first love. As CS Lewis says, this is not “idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. God is going to make us into creatures that can obey” and that can love like God loves. (Mere Christianity).
The gospel promise is as simple as that, “Follow me,” “be born again,” “ the fruit of the spirit is love,” “First we were loved, now we love.” Our church’s text, the sermon on the mount, describes the natural fruit bearing life lived by those who have experienced God’s miracle of love and regeneration. “Jesus knew that we cannot keep the law by trying to keep the law. To succeed in keeping the law one must aim at something other and something more. One must aim to become the kind of person from whom th deeps of the law naturally flow. The apple tree naturally and easily produces apples because of its inner nature.” Dallas Willard, Divine Conspiracy.
Caring is not a law, love is not a rule. These are what will come naturally from inside you as you are “transformed from one degree of glory to the next.”
And its all rooted in the most fundamental truth of all: “First, we were loved.”
First, we are loved by a Creator God who knows us intimately, even before we were born. This God knows how many hairs we have on our heads. This God smiles at you and says, “You are good just the way you are because I made you. You are loved!”
Redeeming God who welcomes us home when you’ve gone prodigal, and celebrates your return.
Comforting God who leads you to places of renewal and hope, green pastures and quiet waters.
Reconciling God who humanizes our enemies by preparing an overflowing table for us to share with them. And makes them friends.
Comforting God who weeps when we weep, mourns when we mourn, cries when we cry. This is the God who says you are blessed if you mourn.
Present God, Immanuel, who is always with us. When we walk through all manner of pain and hardship.
Forgiving God, who removes our sins as far as the east is from the west.
Loving God, who celebrates over you with singing.
Parental God, who nurtures, comforts, sustains, and holds us close to his heart. And invites us to call God Abba, Daddy.
May you always love yourself and everyone you meet! Because you are deeply loved.