Evan Garner has convinced me. This Sunday’s lesson may, in fact, be all about grace, but grace is a second level experience of God. We only experience God’s grace because of God’s great love for us. His love for me. His love for you. As I read through the lessons again this morning, the word “love” jumped out at me.
Ephesians 2:4-6 God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ– by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
I had a suspicion about that word “love” and so I went digging to confirm it. God’s love for us, in all three instances, is the Greek word “agape” which is used all over the New Testament to describe not only the love God has for his creation, but the sort of love disciples of Jesus are expected to have for God, for one another, and even for our enemies. It is, according to the First Letter of John, the type of love that typifies God.
Agape love is self-giving. It is, as Paul writes, patient and kind, not self-seeking, and endures all things (1 Cor 13). That is the sort of love that God has for you. A love so deep, so great, so unimaginable that we have to hear about it over and over and over again, and even then, we have a hard time wrapping our minds around it. God loves the world he created so much that he gave his only Son to restore it, all of it, from the amoebas in the sea to the billy goats on the mountain side, from the baby asleep in a mosquito net in east Afica to the CEO in the corner office in mid-town Manhattan, from me in the depths of my sinfulness to you in the heights of your hopes and dreams, he wants to restore all of creation to right relationship with him and with one another.
God pours out his mercy upon us. His grace saves us through faith. That is all true, but before all that, God loves you, and that is more than enough.