Heart-shaped cloud in blue sky

The Five Most Important Bible Verses about God’s Love

I used to have a pretty long list of things I thought I knew about God. I’d say now, I’m reduced to one certainty: God is love. What does that mean? Here’s what I think.

Heart-shaped cloud in blue sky
Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash

1.  Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 Jn 4:8)

If you go to church, hopefully you heard there that God is love. If you didn’t hear it there, then maybe you need to find another church. Even if you don’t subscribe to organized religion, you’ve probably heard it before. Have you ever really thought about the implications of that?

It doesn’t just say God loves us or God is loving. God is love. That means even if there were no people for God to love or to love each other, even if there were no living creatures capable of love in even its most primitive form, love would still exist because God is love.

The first part of this verse is just as important. Knowing God means knowing God is love. Knowing God is love should result in us loving one another. If we don’t love one another, then we don’t love God (cf. 1 Jn 4:7, 20).

2.  We love because [God] first loved us. (1 Jn 4:19)

This tells me all human love is possible because God first loved us. If you want proof of God’s existence, consider our capacity to love. Years ago, I went to the funeral of a Muslim friend’s father. The imam told a parable of a doctor who was going home from a thirty-six hour shift. On the way, he saw a man unconscious in a ditch. Even though he was exhausted, she pulled over, revived him, his wounds, and drove him home. And because the man was poor, he refused to take any payment for it.

How do you feel hearing a story like that? I’m guessing whether you are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or whatever, you admire that doctor. The Imam said, “Anyone, even someone who doesn’t believe in God, would look at that and say the doctor did a beautiful thing. Why? Because God placed an appreciation of love and beauty in the human heart.”

To this day, I consider that the best argument for God’s existence I have ever heard. We love because God first loved us. How do we know God loved us? That brings me to the next verse.

3.  But God proves [God’s] love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8)

Tell me if you can relate to this. There were times in my life when I thought God hated me, abandoned me, gave up on me, or just did not care enough to be bothered with me. Sometimes I blamed God for it, but more often I blamed myself.

When Martin Luther was a monk, he tried harder than anyone to please God. One day, another monk asked if he loved God. “Love God? Sometimes I hate him!” Why did he hate God (sometimes)? Because he kept trying and trying to please God, and no matter how much he prayed, or how diligent he was in confessing and repenting of his sins, it was never enough. Let’s just say I can relate.

If you have ever felt that way, look at that verse again.

But I already know Christ died for me.

No, look at the whole verse. How does it start? God has already proved God’s love for us. You don’t have to prove how much you love God, because the point of what Christ did at the cross was to prove how much God loves us. What speaks to me most powerfully is that has already happened. That means you can never change it. God’s love and acceptance of you is not based on what you do or don’t do. It’s based on what Christ already did.

4. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:38-39)

It’s easy to believe God loves us when things are going well. Life is good, and so is God. But what about when life isn’t so good?

The Prosperity Gospel taught me a life of faith would protect me from peril, poverty, death, things present, things to come, hardship, persecution, or sickness. If you want health, wealth, a perfect marriage, obedient children, and success in all your endeavors, you just have to believe God for it, and it will be so. If it doesn’t happen immediately, keep believing, keep being faithful to God, and it will happen. But what if it still doesn’t happen? Either you sinned or you didn’t have enough faith, whatever that means.

Read these verses again. Actually, let’s start a few verses before that.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Rom 8:35-39)

There is a lot in there that the Prosperity Gospel says will not happen if you are faithful to God and believe the Bible. But this passage does not say a life of faith will protect you from hardship, distress, hunger, poverty, peril, rulers, things present, things to come, or anything in all creation we don’t want in our lives. It only says none of that ever has or ever will separate us from the love of God in Christ.

Paul did not just preach this. He lived it. Everywhere he went to teach the Gospel, it seems they would throw him in prison, beat him, scourge him, stone him, or accuse him of all kinds of mischief he never did. Throw on top of that shipwrecks, illness, robbers, possible vision problems, people who opposed him in his own congregations, charlatans fleecing his people, and a mysterious “thorn in the flesh” that he could not pray away, according to the Prosperity Gospel, God just never favored him at all. Yet I cannot find anywhere in his letters or the book of Acts where Paul ever questioned God’s love for him.

You can’t separate yourself from the love of God in Christ. Other people can’t separate you from the love of God in Christ. Pain, distress, famine, prison, persecution, gossip, fire, flood … No! Nothing that ever has happened, is happening, or could happen to us can separate us from the love of God in Christ. Not even you can make God stop loving you, because God is love.

5.  For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Of course I had to include this one. If you grew up in the church, this was probably the first Bible verse you memorized. John’s attitude toward the world is usually negative. It is full of sin and corruption that only God can save us from. But even John had to acknowledge God loved the world in spite of that. God gave his only Son for us, to prove God’s love and offer us the gift of eternal life.

You might think that means going to heaven when we die. But in the truest sense, eternal life is life in relationship with God, who is love. When our lives reflect God’s love, that is eternal life. When a lawyer asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, it turned out he already knew the answer: Love God and love your neighbor (Luk 10:26-29). Do this, Jesus said, and you will have eternal life, here and now, and whatever awaits us after death.


So those are my top five verses about God’s love. Which verses speak God’s love most powerfully to you? Do you think I missed any? Let me know in the comments. To sum things up, I will leave you with a few more words from John’s Epistle.

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

(1 Jn 4:7)

Grace and peace to you.

{All scripture quotes come from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) unless otherwise noted.}

Love post – First Anniversary

 

If I wrote a book titled How to Meet and Marry Your Soulmate in Just 50 Years, do you think it would sell? I think back to myself at eighteen. He would not have bought that book. He needed God to come through much sooner than that.

At eighteen, I prayed, believing I would receive the wife that God had matched to me, because the Bible promised it. What scriptures are there to promise a wife?

 

It is not good for the man to be alone (Gen. 2:18).

She is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone (Gen 2:24).

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD (Prov. 18:22).

Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the LORD (Prov. 19:14).

It is better to marry than to burn (1 Cor. 7:9).

 

Oh, yeah. That last one. I was eighteen years old. You know what it’s like at that age. Hormones were driving a lot of these prayers. But more than that I wanted to find my rib, the woman who would be flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone. In other words, my soulmate. If you want God to introduce you to your Miss Right, you can’t settle for Miss Right-Now. At least that was what I was taught. I wanted to finish college and get a career before I got married. There was some waiting involved. I understood that and accepted it. I figured it would be worth it if I married the woman God intended for me.

But the waiting was much longer than I thought it would be, and it took a toll on my relationship with God. I blamed God for all the years of frustration, opportunities missed, and the ticking of my biological clock. You don’t hear men talk about that, but at a certain age I saw my potency slipping away from me. How was I going to have children? If God were going to answer that prayer of mine, you’d think God would have made it happen in time that my (still nonexistent) wife and I could have made that choice. God promised to grant the desires of my heart (Psalm 37:4). I listened to preachers who set up those expectations for me, and it just made the disappointment greater.

 

Why is the game of love so hard to win?

 

There are some things I understand now that I did not understand then. My mom summed it up when she told me, “You will never find another woman who’s a better fit for you than Fran.” She never said that about any of my previous girlfriends. And with good reason. She was right on both counts, as mothers usually are.

When you are with the right person, you don’t have to talk yourself into it. You don’t have to make excuses for all the ways they make you miserable. The thought of spending my whole life with other girlfriends made me scared. There was too much drama with them. With Fran, the thought of spending the rest of my life with her made me happy. More and more, I got the feeling she was what had been missing in my life. She was both my true love and my best friend. In other words, my soulmate. I had a hard time understanding why my other relationships did not work out. Now, I know. I just did not know what it looked like to be with the right woman until I met Fran.

It was about thirty years later when the prayers of that eighteen-year-old were finally answered. In all that time, I’ve learned the game of trying to find the love of your life is so unfair. You don’t know what it looks like to be with her until you actually meet her. Before then, the rush of being in love can easily fool you. With all my previous girlfriends, there were moments when I thought they could be the one, but we just were not good matches for the long term. Eventually I figured that out. That saved me from marrying the wrong person. But each time it left me frustrated, wondering when will I meet the right person. For a long time, I resented God for making me wait so long.

People would tell me, “It will happen when you don’t expect it.” I did not see how that was possible. Every time I met a new woman, I noticed two things: Is she attractive, and does she have a wedding ring. I got some of them to go out with me, but it never worked out. Eventually, I got so frustrated I gave up completely. So God said, “It is not good for man to be alone”? Apparently God did not include me in that. I resigned myself to a fate of being single my whole life. And then I met her, and fate changed its mind.

Newlyweds

 

What I like most so far is how natural it feels for us to be together. I don’t think about being married the same way I don’t think about breathing. It’s just the way it’s supposed to be. Occasionally, people will remind me, though. Friends or family will ask, “How’s married life?” “Great,” I tell them with a smile. When we tell people we are newlyweds, they are always happy for us. That has been fun. I figured we could keep it going for the first year. A year has passed, and I’m wondering if I can still keep it going.

When something feels natural, though, the danger is in taking it for granted. If anything good has come of waiting so long, it’s that I think it’s impossible to take her for granted. We went to a writer’s group in Buford, Georgia back in May. I talked to one of the men there. He said he has been married fourteen years and still considers himself a newlywed. So my plan now is to keep thinking of us as newlyweds, at least for thirteen more years. And then . . . maybe another fourteen years?

collage of proposal

Show Don’t Tell

 

Writers hear the saying “Show don’t tell” all the time. What that means is you don’t tell what the character is feeling. You show it in their actions, physical response, facial expressions, body language, etc. Instead of saying, “He was worried,” or “He was anxious,” you might say, “His brow furrowed.” Fran says I had a furrowed brow when we first met. Now that furrow is gone. What does that show you? For me, it shows how much my relationship with God has healed.

It also shows I didn’t know how much I needed her until I knew her.

Fran with caramel apples we made

What if?

 

If there was one thing I could have changed, it would be having a child or two of my own, in my thirties or maybe late twenties. That ship has sailed. It’s highly unlikely at this point that we would have any children together, unless God pulls an Isaac on us. And I don’t think I would have the energy or desire for it now.

I had no idea that what I was asking for was harder than I thought. I wanted a relationship and a marriage the way it was in the Garden before the Fall. She was flesh of his flesh, bone of his bone. They matched on every level: spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and physically. If I had just asked for a wife because it is better to marry than to burn, maybe it would not have taken so long. I might have been able to get married in college to satisfy those yearnings. But I asked for more.

When I got married, I wanted it to be right in every way, and I wanted it to be for life. The vast majority of couples, when they get married, don’t think they’ll get divorced. They think it will be for life. And yet, over 50% of marriages end in divorce. Why? I don’t have the answer, and I’m not in a position to judge anyone. If I had married one of my previous girlfriends, I’m sure we would have ended up divorced. I just didn’t want my marriage to be part of that statistic. That meant I needed a woman I connected with on every level.

What if God had said to my eighteen-year-old self, “I can give you your heart’s desire. It’s going to take time before it is right for the two of you to come together. I won’t promise you will be able to have children when it happens”? Would I have taken that?

I might have asked a couple of questions, like, “Why is it taking so long? If you can turn stones into children of Abraham, surely there is more than one woman in the world who can be my wife. If she doesn’t exist yet, take one of my ribs and make her like you did from Adam.”

And God might have said something like, “I haven’t worked that way since the Fall. She does exist. All I am promising is that in the fullness of time, you will meet the desire of your heart.”

“How long is that?”

“In the fullness of time.”

 

Chronos and Kairos

 

When you pray for something, it’s really hard to pin down an exact time from God. Look at all the times throughout history someone thought they had figured the exact time of the Rapture, and it still hasn’t happened. So when will it happen? Just like the first advent of Christ happened in the fullness of time, the second advent will happen the same way. So stop trying to calculate when.

In Greek, there are two different words for time: Chronos (quantitative time) and Kairos (qualitative time). We live in Chronos, where time is measured in seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months, etc. God operates in Kairos, which means it happens at the right time.

At eighteen I was in Virginia, and she was in South Carolina. The time was not right for us to come together. It took about thirty years to make it happen. As we got to know each other, we learned that all the while, God was slowly, imperceptibly moving us toward each other, so that at the right time, we finally met. It would take a whole other post to tell how it all worked together, but it was enough to convince me whether I believed it or not, God kept working to make it happen at the right time.

Since then it has been a lot easier to trust that God is working everything in my life – even my most frustrating and painful moments – for good, as Romans 8:28 says. So when I ask why God didn’t give me children, if I believe God knew what He was doing better than I did, there must be a reason. I don’t know the reason, and I don’t have to, because even that was something God did for my good. I couldn’t always believe that. But my relationship with God has healed to the point that now I can.

David and Fran wedding photo

Infinity

 

This is a famous passage from The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green, first a book and later made into a movie.

 

“There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I’m likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”

 

Remember that statistic about 50% of marriages ending in divorce? That hasn’t been true in my family, including extended families. At family reunions, I have great aunts and uncles who have been married fifty, sixty, seventy years. Some who have outlived their spouses. I have cousins who got married at a “normal age” and are still with the same person. A few were divorced and remarried, but not many.

Fran and I will complete our first year of marriage this weekend. It’s very unlikely – unless God does something incredible – that we will live to be married as long as my grandparents were, my parents have been, her parents have been, and of course my many great aunts and uncles and even some cousins have been. I don’t know how long we will have together before one or both of us leaves this world. In comparing the length of time we will have together versus what they have already had, and will have, our Chronos looks so small. John Green reminds me here that no matter how short the time, in Kairos she has already given me infinity within the numbered days. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Ring - Best friend, true love