Last Monday night we had a picnic at the visitors’ center at the Libby Dam. We have friends who lived here before moving back to Pennsylvania who are the campground hosts. The picnic was for our Monday night Bible study group that meets during the school year. We had been praying at each Bible study for Billie, the sister-in-law of one who attends our study. Billie had a major stroke while she and her husband were in California on a vacation. Their home is in Alaska and she hasn’t been able to return because of her condition. In addition to her paralysis due to the stroke they also discovered that she has cancer, but they don’t dare do surgery.
Well, we were waiting for Judith (Billie’s sister-in-law) to arrive at the picnic and we see a large motor home drive up. In it was Billie and her husband, Clark, and Judith, and a brother-in-law, Richard, who attended our Bible study when he was visiting up here last year. Needless to say we were greatly surprised to meet the one for whom we had been praying. We had no idea they were up in our area, let alone would be at the picnic. Clark, who is an engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers in Alaska, and a construction engineer friend in California had modified the motor home to accommodate a hospital bed and designed a system to hoist Billie out of the motor home and into a wheel chair. It was pretty impressive.
Something that was even more impressive, and very moving, was to see the love and care that Clark had for his wife, who can no longer respond other than to move her eyes and utter a few sounds. He has had to take a leave of absence from his job and his life is consumed with helping his wife, knowing that barring a miracle from God she will not survive long. As I witnessed Clark’s great unconditional love for Billie, I couldn’t help but be reminded of how God loves us. One passage in particular came to mind and that is Rom. 5:6-8 which states: “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” When we consider our own sinful life it is so amazing to think that God would send His Son to die for us.
The prolific hymn writer, Charles Wesley, must have also been contemplating God’s amazing unconditional love when he penned the words to And Can It Be? Here are the words to the first verse:
“And can it be that I should gain an int’rest in the Savior’s blood? Died He for me, who caused His pain? For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”
We read in the most beloved verse in the Bible, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). The Greek word used most often in the New Testament for God’s love is agape (ag-ah’-pay) and God is the source of that kind of unconditional love. The other Greek words that express love, eros and phileo, have strings attached–“I’ll love you if,” or “I love you because.” But agape love acts spontaneously, and gives sacrificially to meet needs. That’s the kind of love God has for us. In fact, the Bible says, “God is love (agape)“ (I Jn. 4:8). Agape love is one of the attributes of God. And the apostle John goes on to write: “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I Jn. 4:9,10). God’s love for me isn’t based on how well I perform, how much I deserve it, how “lovely” I am, but on who He is–and it’s a good thing too! If I got what I deserved, I would end up in hell, because I have an old, sinful nature indwelling me that cannot please God. The apostle Paul said the same thing was true about him (Ro. 7:18). And, the same is true about you! It is all about God’s love, and grace and mercy. The Bible says there is no one who is righteous or who does good (Ro. 3:10,12). “For we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Ro. 3:23). And, “the wages of sin is death” (Ro. 6:23).
That’s what’s so amazing about what God did for us. He could have justly left us all under the condemnation of sin to pay the penalty in hell for eternity, but in His great love, He came and paid the penalty Himself so that all who believe on Him could be saved, have the guilt of sin removed, and spend eternity with Him. And it does not depend one iota on how well we do. Our part is simply to believe and to accept what Jesus did as being sufficient and final. That’s GRACE–God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense!
That’s unconditional (agape) love. And the “icing on the cake” is that when you receive Christ, and He comes to live in you through the Holy Spirit, then you can love Him and others with that same kind of love. Rom. 5:5 says, “…the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Have you trusted Christ as your Savior and experienced His unconditional love? Are you letting Him love others through you with that same love?