I’ve heard it said a few too many times. I feel like it’s a well-meaning solution to a serious heart problem.

Maybe you’ve heard it said too. Maybe you’ve even said it yourself (or something very close to it).

“I’ll love ’em, but I don’t have to like ’em.”

On the one hand, I get it. Each of us has that one person (or two or ten or twenty people) who is (are) difficult to get along with. You try and try to care for that person and to genuinely love them, but they prove themselves to be unlovely. You seek to be kind to them and do the right thing toward them, but if you are really honest you just don’t like them very much. I get it.

On the other hand, it is not God’s kind of love. The love of God that is made known through Jesus is a love that starts in the heart and is expressed in our conduct. It is an inward affection that shows itself in our outward actions. God’s love is an affection that shows itself in action. Any kind of “love” that focuses only on the outward action without flowing from an inward affection is a love that falls way short of the kind of love that God shows to us and calls us to.

Jesus on the Cross 2The kind of love that I’m suggesting here to be God’s kind of love is everywhere in the New Testament:

  • “For God so loved (the affection) the world that He gave (the action) His only Son” (John 3:16a). God loved so God gave.
  • “But God shows his love for us (the affection) in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (the action)” (Rom 5:8). God’s affection for us was put on public display in the death of King Jesus.
  • “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us (the affection), even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive (the action) together with Christ – by grace you have been saved” (Eph 2:4-5). God loved so God acted.
  • “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us (the affection) and gave us (the action) eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word” (2 Ths 2:16-17). God loved so God acted.
  • “See what kind of love (the affection) the Father has given (the action) to us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1). God loved so God acted.
  • “In this the love of God (the affection) was made manifest among us, that God sent (the action) his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love (the affection), not that we have loved God but that he loved us (the affection) and sent (the action) his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10). God loved so God sent.

Shall I go on?

It seems to be splattered on almost every page of the New Testament. It’s everywhere. God loves so God acts. God’s inward affection moves Him to outward action—action that is always for our ultimate good. It’s so prominent and obvious I wonder how we can miss it.

But too often we do. Too often I do.

And too often we come up with less-than-ideal alternatives. In tomorrow’s post I’ll explore some of those alternatives.