Do you know how strong the love of God is for you?
Do you know how tightly you’re held?
Do you know the lengths this Love would go for you?
Do you know how wide the arms of Love can stretch—do you? Do you really?
I used to believe in a scarce god. Scarce in what he could do, in how he loved, in what he thought of me.
I used to believe too much love was immature, unwise, dangerous.
I used to believe love should be painful—that it should be challenging to experience god’s love and approval, that I should work hard to stay within boundaries that would make God happy with me.
I used to believe in divine retribution, in an eternal IOU, that love was easy to lose.
But I don’t believe this anymore.
It started in my early twenties as I watched and listened in on internet conversations that I strongly disagreed with—teachers and strangers who excitedly whispered and boldly exclaimed that there was more room at the table, that God’s arms were open wide, that God’s love was not as complicated as we all might have believed.
I grumbled angrily to myself about the new teachings I heard. Messages of acceptance and affirmation of all people as they are, flew in the face of everything I knew about what the Cross required. Even the mere thought of the message in a book like Love Wins caused me to tirade and rant in my journal. “This almost sounds like Jesus died for nothing!!” I furiously scribbled, not realizing that I was exposing my sad and angry and love-starved religious spirit.
Jesus dying—and living—to prove all of humanity belongs in the arms of the Creator and all things are becoming reconciled to God-self through love?
Well, that almost sounds like…Good News.
I continued to listen to these crazy-love people, positive I’d be able to prove them wrong with the two years of bible school under my belt.
But you know what I saw instead? I saw a love that required a lot less explaining than I was accustomed to.
Instead of the gospel being good news for the powerful, the charismatic, the put-together, the Very White and Very Straight and Very American, every person, many who I never knew existed, was included in this love—a whole person, wholly-loved by God.
I truly saw for the first time the verse 1 John 4:18 in action: “there is no fear in love.”
An utterly radical thought, as I had been taught to be afraid of loving the wrong people, or loving too recklessly.
That same verse I just referenced continues to say, “But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.”
And it’s true. I was afraid of being punished—by God, by church leaders, by spiritual friends. I knew I had to love the right people in the right way, or I’d be in some serious trouble of leading someone astray. Oh, but all these excuses made my “love” paper-thin.
I was just so afraid. And no amount of “speaking the truth in love” plastered over my judgmental mindset could make that go away.
You see, we add so many conditions to our unconditional love. We say we don’t, but we have lists of approved behavior and multitudes of excommunicated Christians who bear witness to it. We’re all afraid of associating with them or becoming them. When you’re terrified, you self-protect, you hoard. There is no extra grace to go around because you’re not sure there is even enough for yourself.
Oh, thank God that perfect love drives out fear. Thank God for a Love that doesn’t play by the rules.
Because when I found myself in seasons of pain that I didn’t ask for or didn’t want, I discovered friends and mentors who would surround me and love me, as I am, no questions asked.
It was because of this abundant love I sought out health and growth and discipline—change came when I was fed with love, not starved from it.
And there God’s voice was the loudest. When I finally realized I’m not perfect, and when I finally didn’t deserve God’s love in my own eyes, I found that against my better judgment, I am still loved completely.
If nothing that I do or go through pushes me away from people who love me or distances me from the profound and lawless love of God, why should I withhold that from any human being?
The laws we’re used to are powerless in light of the love of Jesus.
Author and speaker Jonathan Martin recently wrote a lengthy, shocking Instagram post describing the God he used to believe in (and the God many of us still cling to), then says this of his startling description:
“You read this, & it does not settle in your stomach, & the truth flickers in your mind like an old film reel, the truth you’ve always known in your bones but not always known how to say: that God is not like, has never been like this. That there is benevolence that holds all things together, not malevolence in the center of the mystery. That Love is God’s name, the name you’ve always known. And that the Son of Love came to save us from the tyranny of our violence & our greed, not to saves us from the One called Abba, who has always called you by your own true name.”
I believe in this God, this Love, not because it is trendy or convenient or indulgent or because it’s the path of least resistance—I believe in it because I can’t escape it.
I believe in this lawless love because it finds me no matter where I go.
I believe because this love is shouted in sunsets and spilled out through scripture; in grace and friendship and how the seasons change and renew themselves and in how wildly I care for my son.
And if I, as a mother, know how to give good things to my son who asks of me—how much more does my heavenly Parent give to me when I pray? Am I more loving or more holy than God?
I don’t have all the details and all the rules figured out. But for the first time, I don’t feel like I need to. I can default to love and let God figure out the rest. I believe God is more loving than even the most “dangerously” loving people on planet earth, because if scripture says “God is Love,” how could it be possible for creation to outshine its Creator?
No, I do not believe in this wild love because it is easier or just because I want to. I believe in it because whether I like it or not, whether I try to outrun or hide from it or modify it— it’s true.