For the love of God is broader than the measure of man’s mind; And the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind. This stanza from the hymn, There’s a Wideness, written more than a century ago by Frederick W. Faber and Lizzie S. Tourjee, depicts with explicit clarity the height, depth and scope of the love of God. They believed that, as it is impossible to measure God’s mercy, the same is true with regard to His love.
Their emphasis is reminiscent of numerous other compositions such as,
The love of God, how rich, how pure
How measureless, how strong,
It shall forevermore endure
The saints and angels song.
And who can forget the Sunday School favorite,
So high you can’t get over it,
So low you can’t get under it,
So wide you can’t get around it,
O wonderful love.
These songs, like many others, help us to remember a central, yet sometimes overlooked, quality of God’s nature – His love. More than a simple concept or an incidental occurrence, God’s eternal love is fundamentally central in gaining a correct understanding of God’s fullness.
Knowing God’s Amazing Love
In relation to this, the Apostle John declared in his first letter that “God is love.” It is interesting to note that this statement is as close as Scripture comes to defining the nature of the Triune God. Although it appears only in 1 John 4:8 and 16, it does summarize a pervasive biblical theme.
For instance, God is depicted in the Psalms as “abounding in love.” Jeremiah declared to the Israelites, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” And, God’s love comes to its fullest expression in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Many passages attest to the fact that the giving of God’s Son is the greatest manifestation of God’s love. For example, Paul declared, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Likewise, “for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.” Bearing these passages in mind, it is not difficult to ascertain that love is central, not incidental, to the nature of God.
As Richard Rice put it,
Love is not something God happens to do, it is the one divine activity that most fully and vividly discloses God’s inner reality. Love, therefore, is the very essence of the divine nature. Love is what it means to be God.
Experiencing God’s Amazing Love
In light of this truth, what should our response be as believers? Because “God is love,” how should we react? There are two responses.
First, such knowledge should cause us to draw closer to God. It is true that God desires intimacy with His children. Therefore, to have even a partial understanding of God’s love should evoke in us a passion to know God and to draw near to Him.
Many of us want desperately to know God more and to enter into a relationship with Him beyond the basics. Yet, we often find this endeavor difficult to achieve. Some may attribute this to a deep sense of guilt and shame, while others may feel inadequate to enter God’s presence and have fellowship with Him.
Whatever the reason(s), knowing that love is the central embodiment of God’s nature will help overcome these fears. When we realize that ‘God is not out to get us,’ but desires intimacy with us, manifested definitively in the giving of His Son, then fellowship with Him becomes a reality. Indeed, “perfect love drives out fear.”
Secondly, in declaring that “God is love,” John also stated what our responsibility in light of this revelation should be. “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” As we spend time with the Lord, we are confronted with a greater awareness of His infinite love. Consequently, we sense His goodness, kindness, grace and compassion towards us.
In a very real sense, God’s love is meant to be reciprocal. As we experience His overflowing love, we will in turn desire to make this love known to others.
In fact, how can such an experience of love be contained in the first place? The answer is, it cannot. The only way it is possible not to reveal God’s love to others is if we have not experienced it for ourselves. To be certain, every authentic relationship with God will result in an abundance of love for those around us.
This love will be revealed in both word and deed. To express the reality of God’s love only in word is paradoxical. True faith is made known through one’s actions, not only one’s words. A hug, a gift, or any act of kindness and love will be a direct result of knowing God’s love personally, and will result in an intense passion to reach those who do not yet know His love.
Remember that we did not deserve God’s love, but His desire for intimacy initiated and provided the means whereby this undeserving love could be made known to us and experienced by us.
“There’s a Wideness” by Frederick W. Faber and Lizzie S. Tourjee; 1 John 4:8, 16; Ps. 103:8; Jer. 31:3; Rom. 5:8; John 3:16; Richard Rice, The Openness of God; 1 John 4:18.