“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:7-9).
Jesus, who is “God’s valentine,” once told a story about a man who had two sons, the youngest of which broke his father's heart by going off into the world and rebelling against everything he had been taught at home. Finally, penitent, with his pride broken, the boy decided to go back and ask his father's permission to return to the security of his home, if only as a servant. Trudging along, dirty and hungry, he practiced a pitiful little speech of contrition which he hoped would somehow melt his father's hard, cold heart.
We know, of course, just how wrong the boy was in his view of his father. He wasn't allowed to finish his carefully prepared speech, but rather was received back into his father's house with joy. Not as he had believed he might, as a lowly servant, but as the son that he was.
The Bible was written to reveal to us the mind of God, and his love for his creatures. Jesus saw it as part of his work to show us who God is. And, in a very real sense, this encompassed the totality of Jesus ministry. The picture Jesus reveals is of a loving God of good will. More to the point, as John says, "God is love."
Tragically, some fail to see God in this light. The tragedies and suffering that occur in life cause many to conclude that the concept of mercy and justice in the world is false, even ridiculous.
The 1969 anti-war novel by Kurt Vonnégut, “Slaughterhouse Five” portrays the Allied fire-bombing of Dresden, Germany on Feb. 13, 1945, in which 135,000 people died. One of the author's primary objectives seems to be to demonstrate his view of how pointless life is. For example, after talking at some length about the experiences of the family of Abraham’s nephew Lot's family in Sodom, and his wife being changed to a pillar of salt, he says, matter-of-factly, “So it goes.” This seems to be the viewpoint of many. Life doesn't make much sense; it has neither “rhyme nor reason.”
However, those who believe in the God of love can view life from a different perspective. Without a revelation of God true nature, we might easily believe that life has no meaning. It would be easy to move then to the suicidal question "Is life worth living?" But through the trustworthiness of the Biblical record, we are led to understand that life does have meaning, and it is all in the hands of a loving, caring and Almighty God.
Harold Hazelip, one of my graduate professors, portrayed the Bible in a small study guide as a living drama in which you and I are part of the cast. Describing the plot of this divine/human play, Hazelip wrote that “...individuals are significant. You and I count. We are not transient puppets. We are the objects of a divine love story. The God who does not give up invites you and me to become his children, to have fellowship with him.”
If we were asked to reduce the Biblical picture of God's relationship with man to a simple sentence, perhaps it might be the familiar refrain from the children’s song, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15).