People love their kids excessively. Christmas is a great example. The gifts, the toys, the proud photos and stories. The things we do for our kids know no bounds. Beyond rationality. Expressed in different ways, in different cultures, at different times, but always a bit mind-boggling. Even as I observe it in myself.
Why? This is one window into love. Even if we don’t have kids ourselves, we recognize the absurd lengths of love in others. And so, as Kevin encouraged us on Sunday, I exercise my imagination. Do I see how God loves me with that extravagance?
This is how the love of God is revealed to us….1 John 4:9a(CEB)
It helps me to slow down, to pause on each part of a verse, lest I skim over it in familiarity. What are the ways love is revealed to you? God’s love. Kids don’t always notice our love, or feel it, or recognize what we do as love. Sometimes because of our limitations, sometimes because of theirs.
I notice the way fathers talk about their sons. Particularly when they have only one. Speaking to someone who might not know their kid by name, there is a certain inflection- “my son”. Something particular there, which wasn’t lost on the New Testament writers as they tried to describe the depth of God’s love for Jesus.
We have seen his glory,
glory like that of a father’s only son,
full of grace and truth. John 1:14b(CEB)
Observing how much Jesus was loved by the Father. It must have really been something to see first-hand, in person, in the flesh. Perhaps we think Jesus was easy to love. (Though people with power tended to hate him, so it wasn’t a given.) Mostly we think- who wouldn’t love Jesus?! Especially if he was your son. Your only son. He did his mother and father proud. But that’s different. It can’t be how God loves me, or you, can it?
This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him. This is love: it is not that we loved God but that he loved us….
1 John 4:9-10a(CEB)
It is hard to imagine the depths of God’s love for me. That God’s love could be as excessive as how I feel about my kids. As forgiving. And so much more sacrificial. Willing to go to such great lengths for our good. And how did Jesus love? The individual, the three, the twelve, the crowd.
When Jesus arrived and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Mark 6:34(CEB)
Attending sporting events challenges me. Weekend tournaments of crowds of people. Sheep milling around. My first inclination is not compassion. Or love. Sometimes I try to imagine. How does God know each of these people? How does God feel love for each of them individually, to the extent I have known it for myself?
When we experience love in the particular- for our kids, from someone dear- we catch a glimpse of the depths of God’s love. For Jesus, in Jesus, through Jesus. For us. The extravagance. And so the work of the imagination begins. Can we see it for another person, a few others, a church, a community, a crowd?
May God expand our ability to experience love, to know love, and to be love to each other in this world.
O how He loves you;
O how He loves me:
O how He loves you and me!