Real love, genuine agape love is unconditional, period. If you doubt this truth, re-read Paul in his first letter to the church at Corinth. He boldly tells the church – a church battling crippling sins – that “love is kind” and “keeps no record of wrongs.”
And in his first letter, John writes:
And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.
John doesn’t write, “The one who remains in God remains in love.” Rather, he turns it on its heels and states emphatically that “the one who remains in love remains in God.” You cannot hate people who you are able to see and touch while you claim to love God. You can not refuse to forgive others while expecting God to forgive you. Frankly love and hate are like oil and water – incompatible in the mix.
You can not be a Christian and hate people.
We talk quite a lot of our love for God. We declare, “I love God! I follow God!” But God, in a succinct statement in a letter likely penned by the disciple whom Jesus loves, reminds us love is not that we love Him but that He loves us. We need to turn our statements around, putting God in the subject slot and ourselves in the object slot. We ought to declare, “God loves me! God seeks to save me!”
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
Our toddler looks up to us, pulls on our clothes, “I love you, Daddy!” But our love — not the toddler’s — is the mature love of a parent completely devoted to the child at our feet. The best the child may do is reflect our love back to us. How many times do parents hear, “I hate you!” from that same toddler who suddenly rebels in an attempt to gain attention or some forbidden thing?
This is love — God loves us. He sends His only Son to save us from our sins. Like the best parent imaginable, God protects. And, His protection extends forever.
Jesus calls His disciples clean once He washes their feet. Each one has bathed, and therefore does not need to be washed again “except for his feet.” (John 13:10, ESV) Jesus says His disciples — because they are washed by Him — are clean. All they need do is wash one another’s feet, and so remain clean.
“Do you understand what I do for you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I Am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, wash your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I give you an example, that you also should do just as I do to you.” (John 13:12-15)
So, Jesus makes us clean. But, we need to get our feet washed every day. Feet obviously get dirty as part of moving around in the world. Jesus washes our feet; we need to wash each other’s feet. Notice Jesus is not pointing out every speck of dirt and smear of mud; rather He takes the towel He has tied around His waist and washes the feet of each disciple. He doesn’t examine the dirt He removes; He just neatly removes it.
As we go about washing one another’s feet, let’s remember the rest of the person is already clean by virtue of the sacrificial work of Jesus. Let’s just remove the dust that collects on our feet without worrying and nitpicking about whether her dirt is worse than his dirt. After all, to God, it’s all dirt!
“In the beginning, God creates the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)
“In the beginning,” writes John, “is the Word, and the Word is with God, and the Word is God.” (John 1:1)
God speaks and the world comes into existence. John confirms the Son of God is the Word. “All things are made by Him, and without Him is not anything made that is made.” (John 1:3)
Paul tells the church at Colosse that the Son of God “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for by Him are all things created.” (Colossians 1:15-16) The author of Hebrews writes the Son of God is “the brightness of [God’s] glory, and the express image of His person.” (Hebrews 1:3) The Son “upholds all things by the Word of His power.” (Hebrews 1:3)
Jesus Himself says, “He that believeth on Me, believeth not on Me, but on Him that sent Me. And he that seeth Me seeth Him that sent Me.” (John 12:44-45)
And Jesus tells His disciples and us: “But the Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father sends in My Name, He teaches you all things, and brings all things to your remembrance, whatever I say unto you.” (John 14:26)
“The same is in the beginning with God.” (John 1:2)
The Triune God is indirectly referred to in the Word of God; God implies He is “three persons in One” but never that He is a divided God. God is not three little gods in One. Praise be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“The Lord is a jealous and avenging God… He is furious with His enemies. The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will never leave the guilty unpunished.”
And this truth about our God is the reason Jesus is crucified on a cross. God is unwilling to leave the guilty unpunished. He desires to quench His thirst for retribution and justice against the evildoer.
And who is the evildoer? You, me, your neighbor, my neighbor, my child, your child, my parents, your parents, my brother, your brother, my coworkers, your coworkers. And how is it that seemingly good people are called evildoers? Because we fall so short of God, so far from the perfection He expects. In short, we are sinners. Paul reminds us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
Yet, God provides the way out of darkness. John tells us: “For God so loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him. Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is ALREADY condemned, because he has not believed in the Name of the One and Only Son of God.” (John 3: 16-18)
“While we were still enemies, we were reconciled to God.” (Romans 5:10)
God — who leaves no one unpunished — nevertheless, saves us through His One and Only Son. When Jesus is crucified, He receives the severe punishment for our sin. At the point of Jesus’ death, God’s wrath is satisfied. Jesus says, “It is accomplished.”
“When I feel my foot is slipping, Your love, O Lord, holds me up. Anxious thoughts may fill my heart, but Your presence is my joy and my consolation.”
I slip, but God holds me up so that I do not fall. I am anxious, but God is close by; His presence keeps me joyful and consoled. God does not say to me, ‘you will never slip.’ He does not say to me, ‘you will never be worried.’ Instead, He promises to be there for me, whatever my circumstance, whatever my failure.
“Humble yourselves then under God’s mighty hand, and He will lift you up in due time. Cast all your cares on Him, for you are His charge.” (1 Peter 5: 6 – 7)
Remember, “there is no room for fear in love; perfect love banishes fear. For fear brings with it the pains of judgement, and anyone who is afraid has not attained to love in its perfection. We love because He loves us first.” (1 John 4: 18)
Know that God is ready to give us all good things, for He does not withhold His Son from us. Fear not, God is with us.
We are saved before time begins in Christ Jesus who is with God and is God. As John writes, “In the beginning is the Word, and the Word is with God, and the Word is God.” (John 1: 1)
Paul tells us that our salvation is not due to our works, but completely rests on Christ’s finished work, which is God’s purpose and will.
“For [God] chooses us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love, He predestines us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He favors us with in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1: 4 – 6)
Paul calls us to be strong in God’s grace, keeping ourselves from entanglement in the affairs of the world so that we are “set apart, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2: 1, 21)
For the good works we do are prepared in advance for us by our Heavenly Father, and performed by the power of His Holy Spirit through the grace of His Beloved Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.