Oh, for the love of God!
When I was a boy, I can remember hearing a neighbor of ours saying, sometimes yelling, this phrase. Of course, I did not understand what he was saying, because when I heard him he didn’t sound like he was expressing much love. Sadly.
What is the love of God and why is it important to understand it?
In the 1st Letter of John (the same John as in the Gospel of John) he writes,
"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." 4:7-9
There are several types of love defined in language and by use in Scripture delineated by the use of specific words.
According to John and by the witness of Scripture, agapos or agape love isn’t just the love that God gives, it is part of God’s character. God loves from an outpouring of who God is, not what God does. When we are told to imitate Christ, to love each other as God loves us, we are being told to love with God. Realizing that agape love is God’s self and that it does not come “naturally” to us in our sinful state. Only by drawing closer to God and experiencing God personally and intimately are we able to express love as God loves us.
The fullest expression of God as love is the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity, the Word made flesh, Jesus the Christ. We must grow in our knowledge and closeness to Jesus to experience the character of God and love as God loves us. John declares, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." 1:14 God has made clear that God’s manifestation of God’s self (love) through the Son is the Way in which we are to find maturity in our relationship with God.
I don’t think my neighbor was actually expressing these truths when he cried, Oh, for the love of God. We know that it is actually the cry of one who knows that the sacrifice of God in Jesus Christ is the single saving act of life. It is the cry of one who understands that this love is not sentimental or conditional but is absolute and eternal. It is the cry of faith acknowledging the Father and accepting God’s guidance, correction, caring, and punishment that come from a loving and devoted parent.
As we draw closer to God through the agape of God, we must rely upon God to help us sacrifice for each other and not expect the others to sacrifice for us; “if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.” Luke 6:33
Oh, for the love of God!
Father Bill Burk†