I’ve been thinking a lot about love lately. And you’ll have to excuse me for borrowing and modifying my title based upon Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous poem by almost the same name.
My thoughts of love have revolved around why people love each other and then further, why they love God. Often, it seems like love is based upon what has been received from another person. This brought to mind Janet Jackson’s hit song from 1986, “What Have You Done for Me Lately?” A line from the song states, “I never ask for more than I deserve.”
In contrast, do we ever think of loving others simply for who they are and not merely for what we receive from them? And what about God? Do we view him as owing us certain things that we think we deserve? Perhaps because they are good things in and of themselves, we miss that we might actually have a Janet Jackson attitude. In other words, I love you because of what you do for me, and my love might just fade based upon what I have most recently received or not received.
As I thought about this topic, the first Psalm that came to mind was Psalm 116C, where the psalmist declares, “I love the Lord because he hears my pleading.” So I want to say clearly that it is not wrong to love God because of his works on our behalf. Obviously, we love God for what he does and has done for us. Our justification and adoption in Christ are acts of God's free grace for which we could never express enough love.
And Acts 17:25 declares, “Nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” We should love God for giving us life and breath and everything else!
And David declares in Psalm 18A, “I love you, Lord! You are my strength.”
Rather than just thinking about what God does for his people, as wonderful as this is, we should also take a step back and begin with who God is. Before we rush to what God does and love him only for those things, we ought to reflect upon who he is, and love him for himself.
This leads us to the attributes of God. There are many books written about this topic, from A. W. Pink’s classic The Attributes of God to newer works by Jen Wilkin, None Like Him and In His Image. There is even a curriculum for elementary children by Truth78 called The ABCs of God, in which each letter of the alphabet is used to help children remember the many of the attributes of God (including the letter "x" for eXulted!).
Who is God? Here are a few attributes for you to think about today. God is: incomprehensible, eternal, creator, glorious, wise, almighty, sovereign, love, omnipresent, a refuge, jealous, wrathful, merciful, deliverer, king, holy, bountiful, supreme, gracious, provider, self-sufficient, understanding, attentive, faithful, trinity, unchanging, omniscient, good, righteous, patient, zealous, victorious, exalted, worthy, never-tiring, just, truthful, self-existent, omnipotent, and infinite. If reviewing this list has encouraged you to think more about the character of God, you can also check out the Westminster Confession of Faith (Chapter 2 - Of God, and of the Holy Trinity).
Remember that everything that the Lord does flows out of who he is. So as you think about these attributes today, love him simply for who he is, and then thank him for all he has done!
Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter responds, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you” (John 21:16).