God's Love

The most famous of all the verses of the Bible are John 3:16-17

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."

This is the most basic statement of the Gospel.

How Broad Is God's Love?

Detail of the stained glass window called Notre-Dame de la Belle Verrière, a section from the 13th Century, in Notre-Dame de Chartres Cathedral, Chartres, France. This part is the central image of a section depicting the Marriage at Cana.
Detail of the stained glass window called Notre-Dame de la Belle Verrière, a section from the 13th Century, in Notre-Dame de Chartres Cathedral, Chartres, France. This part is the central image of a section depicting the Marriage at Cana.
This verse teaches us that God's love was so great and strong that it was the root of all of Jesus' life and death and all the work of spreading the good news since then. God's love is the basis for all of our faith. God's highest wish for all of us is that we may not perish but have eternal life. All the stories in the Bible, all the actions of God in the world, make sense only when understood in terms of that love. All the teachings of the church must be understood in terms of that love. Jesus came to earth because of God's love for you. Jesus died for you because of God's love for you. Jesus rose from the dead as the promise of God's love for you.

We believe that all the teachings in the attributes of God, for instance holiness, power, justice, and righteousness, only make sense as they are understood as outgrowths of God's love. It is a tradition that all sermons and writings by people of faith must be judged by how well they proclaim the good news of God's love and Jesus' work for us.

Our understanding of God as "Father" is a way of using the biological family model to demonstrate God's love. Unfortunately, the use of the image of the male parent has led many people of faith to think of God only in terms of one gender. This tends to limit God and limit the kind of love we experience from God. It also ignores the variety of other (male, female, and non-gender) images Scripture uses for God. (Examples of female images of God in the Bible include God as a housewife in Luke 15:8-9, as a mother eagle Deuteronomy 32:11, and as a mother of a young child Isaiah 66:13). God's love is very broad and very powerful; unfortunately, our language limits our understanding and often limits our image of God. We must never allow our lack of imagination to limit our faith. God is always bigger than the words and images we use to explain the divine.

Experiencing God's Love

"Salvation" is a word that Christian's use a lot and seem to never agree about. For some it has become a way of dividing people into groups according to how they define the word. Are you saved because you recited a specific prayer, because you have been baptized, because of how you were baptized or who baptized you, because of the political views you hold, because of your good actions and thoughts? No! Salvation is the result of God's love, and God's work. We do not believe we receive salvation because of anything we do. Our hardest work as Christians is learning to accept, depend, and rest on that love. We accept salvation when we give up trying to earn God's love and begin to enjoy it. We believe that salvation is a gift from God. We trust that gift in all the circumstances of life and know that not even death can separate us from the love of God.

For Further Study

Presbyterian 101 article on Faith
Catholic Encyclopedia articles