God is love
Yesterday I gave the homily at a friend's funeral. The departed, Jim, was no youth, having lived to an age that young people would consider a good innings — he was 69. Nevertheless, his death tugs on my emotions more than many others. You see, he and his wife, Wendy (a close friend of my wife, Martha), had been planning for months to move interstate to be near their only child and grandchild; they were scheduled to go in a couple of weeks. They had prepared a box of toys they were looking forward to giving their 3½ year-old grandson, William. Their son, Simon, was tremendously excited at the thought of their imminent arrival and the time that William would be able to spend with “pop”. Little William was in a lather of excitement at the prospect of nan and pop living around the corner. And Wendy, of course, was over the moon with anticipation over it all. But when she discovered Jim dead last week upon returning home from shopping, everything changed in an instant.
Death always hurts, but when it strikes unexpectedly and upsets exciting plans it lacerates the soul and tears the heart out of loved ones. Jim was not a believer in the commonly-understood meaning of the term, and Wendy has been grappling with the age-old issue of the goodness of God in a pain-filled world for some time. The timing of Jim's death has only added to the intensity of her struggle.
Why did God not postpone Jim's death for at least a few years to let him spend some “serious” time with William, and so that William would have had a chance to spend time with the pop he adored? We might be tempted to suggest that God did not have the power to prolong Jim's life, or that He was taken unawares. Such a proposition is rendered absurd by the evidence in creation of the infinite might of God and His nanosecond by nanosecond control of the universe. Perhaps, then, we must conclude that God doesn't really care for Jim and William, Wendy and Simon. That proposition is likewise excluded by hard evidence — God was willing to clothe Himself in flesh in the form of Jesus Christ and experience an agonizing death in order to atone for their sins and to grant them, if they respond, the gift of eternal
life. When the final chapters of history are written, the dead are raised to life again and loved ones are reunited, Wendy will plainly see the love of God in all its brilliance and splendor. Until that time she, like us all, has two choices — to reject God as mean and uncaring or to believe the evidence of Jesus' Passion and the statements in His Word about His love for each of us personally.
Just how great is His concern for us? The clarity of our vision of His love depends on two chief factors: our willingness to meditate on the life and death of Jesus Christ; our degree of faith in some plain biblical propositions. With respect to the latter, the Bible contains many insights. God's love for us is so great that He monitors our tonsorial state (Matt. 10:30). It is so intense that He feels every jab of our pain as strongly as we do ourselves (Is. 63:9). The compassion Jesus felt for the widow of Nain in her grief (see Luke 7:11-15) does not represent a one-off exception but shows us how the living Jesus Christ feels for every suffering human being right now.
In one of the most easily overlooked propositions in all of Scripture, we are told that, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). Stop and think. This amazing three-word sentence tells us that love stands out as God's greatest attribute, above even His “power and Godhead” (Rom. 1:20). Logic tells us that if His power is infinite (Gen. 18:14, Luke 1:37) then so too must be His love. Infinite. Mull that over. It means God's love has no limits. Unbelievable. The Lord of Hosts knows intimately and loves passionately every one of His billions of hosts, both on earth and in heaven, even those who currently make Him angry through their wickedness. Finally, consider another mind-numbing revelation of the love of God:
Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget , yet I will not forget you (Is. 49:15).
Ponder these words and marvel. God has not “forgotten” our friends in their grief. In due course they will sing with joy for the goodness of God. Truly, the love of God surpasses all understanding.