How Great is the Love – Greg Albrecht
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! —1 John 3:1
There’s a great story about a little boy who was trying to learn the Lord’s Prayer. One night he was kneeling down by his bed, and he prayed: “Our Father who are in heaven, how do you know my name?”
St. Augustine, revered as one of the great theologians of the Christian faith, once said that Jesus loves each of us as if there was no one else to love. We can see that reality in the life and teachings of Jesus—time after time we read about people Jesus met who felt and experienced his radically personalized, individual affection—no one they had ever known had talked to them, treated them and took time for them the way Jesus did.
The eyes out of which Jesus saw and perceived others were never filled with contempt or disdain. Even when Jesus spoke harshly, as he did to religious authorities of his day, he did so out of concern for those authorities and for those who were being oppressed by them—he never spoke harsh words out of hatred or spite.
The little boy trying to learn the Lord’s Prayer said something incredibly profound—what kind of love is this love that God has for us that he would be interested in knowing our name? What kind of love is this love that God has for us that he would love us in spite of knowing all there is to know about us?
From time to time I like to consult The Message Bible—translated by Eugene Peterson. It’s a translation lovingly prepared by Dr. Peterson in an attempt to help us understand the message of the Bible in language that is more familiar to us today. Here’s how Dr. Peterson translated 1 John 3:1:
“What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we are called children of God! That’s who we really are. But that’s also why the world doesn’t recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he’s up to.”
The dimensions of God’s love for us—its height, depth, width and breadth are staggering. Again, as that little boy said, “Our Father who are in heaven, how do you know my name?”
What Marvelous Love
1 John 3:1 is one way of expressing our amazement at God’s love—that he would stoop down low enough to call us his very own children.
Let me share something Frederic Buechner said in this regard. In his book, The Magnificent Defeat, Buechner observes: “We are children, perhaps, at the very moment when we know that it is as children that God loves us—not because we have deserved his love…but simply because he has chosen to love us.
We are children because he is our father; and all of our efforts, fruitful and fruitless, to do good, to speak truth, to understand, are the efforts of children who, for all their precocity, are children still in that before we loved him, he loved us, as children, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
When we talk about God’s love, we inevitably will find ourselves at the cross of Christ—the greatest singular demonstration of the love of God, when God, in Christ, responded to the hostility and anger of humanity toward Jesus with God’s love.
Many within Christendom, regardless of their denomination, misunderstand the cross of Christ and what actually happened.
They have been taught that God the Father was so upset with humanity and our sin that he told Jesus that he would have to come down (from his upstairs bedroom?) here (to the kitchen where we have made a big mess) so that the Father could take out his wrath on him, rather than us.
So people think that God loved us so much that he beat up on his Son instead of us, and that Jesus, the Son, loved us so much that he took a beating from the Father that we had coming to us.
But take a step back—that description and definition of the cross of Christ is not an act of love, that’s an act of retaliation and vengeance.
If God intended to abuse us, as his children, but stopped short and abused the Son of God instead, then we are not talking love, we are talking child abuse.