We say it all the time – God is love. We teach our children – God loves you. We tell the world – God so loved the world God gave His only son.
How do we know God is loving and loves…me?
Consider these words from author and pastor John Ortberg:
“The message of Jesus that would inspire the world is that there is a transcendent God, and that the character of this God is love. In the ancient world, the spiritual realm was understood to be real but not morally transcendent. Aristotle aaid, ‘It would be eccentric to claim to love Zeus.’ No one wrote songs that said, ‘Zeus loves me, this I know, for the Iliad tells me so.’ Adherents of Eastern religions generally did not believe in a personal god at all. Whenever someone says, ‘I believe in a God of love,’ we hear the echo of Jesus.”
Do you hear what Ortberg is saying? The Judeo-Christian religious tradition introduced belief in a loving God to the world. Christians believe God is love, because a divine man named Jesus revealed the heart of God in human form. A divine, self-giving, sacrificial love.
This week the Dalai Lama will speak in Eugene on the subject of peace and happiness in the world today. This is quite the religious figure for our little city to welcome. He has done a lot of positive good in our world. But consider this. He can promote love on the basis of Buddhist beliefs that all of us are part of one universal, impersonal life force or energy. But, he can’t promote love on the basis of distinct individuals with distinct eternal souls existing in loving relationships with one another.
It is followers of Jesus who maintain the belief that individual souls exist and are loved individually by a personal, loving God. In fact, this divine love did not take the route of The Buddha by transcending suffering through detachment. Our God showed love most ultimately in the gift of Jesus taking suffering and death upon his shoulders and putting death to death. This is our example of love. Action that dies for the beloved, in small service and ultimate sacrifice. That’s the kind of love God has for you and me.