God’s Love: General or Specific
Imagine you were at the doctor’s office for a physical. When everything was done the Doctor came in, sat down and said, “I have bad news and good news. You have a serious disease. But I know what to do. I have done this surgery thousands of times. I have scheduled the surgery and we are going to get this taken care of. I am glad you came in. Have a great day.”
You sit there stunned. You have a flood of questions and can only get out a couple. “A disease? What is it and how bad is it? And hold on a minute, what kind of surgery is this? And for Pete’s sake, where on my body is this surgery?!” The doctor puts both hands up and with a smile precedes to motion to these questions like he is backing down a dog trying to lick his face. He finally says, “Hey, I told you I know what to do and I am going to do it. I am your doctor and I am going to take care of you. Make sure to get a piece of candy at the reception desk. Oh, and say hi to your wife for me.”
This would never happen. We would demand answers and if we didn’t get them we would find another doctor. Yet, for some reason people seem just fine with this kind of ambiguity at church. They are told the bad news that they are sinners, but, no worries, God loves you. Children’s lessons, sermons, and innumerable worship songs all say the same thing; God loves you. They say it in different ways, but it gets sung and heard, ad nauseam.
Now, is “ad nauseam” something you want to say about God’s love? Shouldn’t it be something we need to hear over and over? Not like that, it shouldn’t. That would be like living with a husband who only says “I love you.” He doesn’t bring you flowers, he doesn’t listen to your hurts, he doesn’t lead out in important matters, and he doesn’t take you on romantic get-a-ways. All he does is says, “I love you.” That wife would rightly be asking, “How? What does your love mean?”
God’s love is the highest, deepest, and richest theme of Scripture. If those heights, depths, and riches are not described, explored and applied, then not only has God’s love been woefully mistreated, but God’s people are left woefully ill-equipped. They have nothing which they can truly embrace with both hands. Even the devil will say “I love you.” If that is all the church gives you about God’s love, then the world will offer stiff competition and it will almost always be more enticing.
God’s love is seen at the cross. But don’t stop there. God’s love at the cross is understood through the doctrines of election, calling, justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification. The majesty of those doctrines are deepened when we consider who this God is that has done such things. He is the God of infinite glory, understood in part through his wisdom, self-existence, triune relationship, eternality, immutability, sovereignty, and supremacy over all things. It is this God of overwhelming glory who humbles himself to the emptying of the incarnation and servanthood, and goes down further still by deepest humiliation, ultimately becoming a curse on a tree. On top of those, we see God’s love as the gospel informs and guides his discipline, his gifts, his pruning, and his teaching. He forever intercedes for us, preserves us, fills us with his Spirit, and assures us. And there is more that could be added to this.
The point is this; God’s love is not ambiguous or generic. It is detailed, specific, multifaceted, and deep. You are not singing about God’s love if you are not singing about aspects of what is mentioned above. Worship that does not go deep into specifics will not go high into rejoicing. Shallow worship will only move you to the degree that you like the music. And shallow preaching will only move you to the degree of the oratory skills of the preacher. But truth, specific overwhelming truth, will transform you from one glory to another. Do not settle for less.