Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.
Most people love those who love them, yet God loves and seeks the good even of people who are his enemies. But because God is good and loving, he cannot tolerate evil. The opposite of love is not anger, but indifference. ‘The more you love your son, the more you hate in him the liar, the drunkard, the traitor,’ (E. Gifford). To imagine God’s situation, imagine a judge who also is a father, who sits at the trial of his guilty son. A judge knows he cannot let his son go, for without justice no society can survive. How much less can a loving God merely ignore or suspend justice for us – who are loved, yet guilty of rebellion against his loving authority?
God does not love us because we are serviceable; He loves us simply because He loves us. This is the only kind of love we can ever be secure in, of course, since it is the only kind of love we cannot possibly lose.
The call to love your brothers and sisters, to love one another as Christ has loved you, is so hard. It’s so silly to think all we have to do is hold up the ethic of love, love your neighbor, to the world and it will become a better place.
You must be born again. The life of God has to be running through you like lightning. You’ll never do it otherwise.
To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.
God’s love and forgiveness can pardon and restore any and every kind of sin or wrongdoing. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done. It doesn’t matter if you’ve deliberately oppressed or even murdered people, or how much you’ve abused yourself… There is no evil that the Father’s love cannot pardon and cover, there is no sin that is a match for his grace.
How can you be totally sure when you look at all the horrible stuff that has happened in your life and out in the world that someday God is going to make it all right? How can you not just hope so, but be absolutely sure that in spite of your own failures, God loves you and will never let you go? How can you know that when you face death it is not the end? Only if you know that Jesus rose from the dead and therefore so will you.
On the one hand, God is holy and just and cannot tolerate or live with or bless evil. On the other hand, God is loving and faithful and cannot tolerate the loss of people he has committed himself to. This is a tremendous, seemingly irresolvable tension in the narrative—and also in the whole Bible (see, for instance, Exodus 34:6-7; Hosea 11:1-11). This tension is what should keep us in suspense throughout Judges. Will God finally give up on his people (but then what of his faithfulness)? Or will he finally give in to his people (but then what of his holiness)?
It is only on the cross that we can understand how God is able to resolve the tension. On the cross, our sin was given—imputed—to him, so that his righteousness could be imputed to us. On the cross, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). On the cross, God poured out his wrath on his people in the person of his Son. He satisfied both justice, because sin was punished, and loving faithfulness, since he is now able to accept and forgive us. Only through the cross can God be both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26, ESV). This is the only way the tension of Judges can be resolved; the only way that God can love us both conditionally and unconditionally.