The grace of the Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.
Love – what is love? Not a silly question. How we answer determines what we mean when we talk of the love of God. Love is a much used, and a greatly misused, word in common currency. “Would you like a coffee?” the man at the next table asks the young lady when she joins him. “I would love a coffee” she replies. She means – I am dying for a drink. “I love cream”: in other words – I cannot resist it. “I love a good long walk” – I enjoy taking exercise. “I love Arran.” – Arran is my favourite holiday resort. Surely not the way we would want to speak of God’s love.
In the early summer of 1956, on the Guild trip from one of my charge churches towards the end of my three-year probation period, we went to Inverness. Before going home we had time to visit a local cinema. The film was the award-winning Love is a many splendored thing. Matt Monroe made a big hit in the charts with the film’s song of the same title. As I recall, the film was about a young couple very much in love, for whom circumstances decreed a parting of the ways. It looked as though it was forever but, undaunted by the pain of forced separation, their love never died. And, Hollywood being Hollywood, there was a happy ending. Years later they met again and fell into one another’s arms. “True love,” the song declares, “A many splendored thing.” Translated less poetically: “True love – brilliant; magnificent.” And that brings us closer to our understanding of God’s love for us. Leaf through the pages of Scripture and they tell us that God’s love is persistent; God’s love is consistent; God’s love is all-embracing: it tells us the width of God’s love – it is not just for you and me or the faithful few: “God so loved the world that he gave us his son. . . . .” Behind everything, those pages tell us, is the love of God.Jesus tells a story of a father and his two sons, all three living at home, working together on the family estate. One of those sons, disgruntled and fed-up, wants to flutter his wings, and asks to be given his share of the family inheritance there and then. In spite of the potential pain of loss, and because he loves his sons, the father accedes to the boy’s request. This younger son takes it, departs, and wastes it on riotous living. We are told that when he regains his senses, impoverished, demoralised, he crawls back home hoping his father will receive him back as a servant. Far from it – his father, his heart full of pity, does the unconventional thing: he runs out to meet his boy, throws his arms around him, kisses him, and welcomes him home with a lavish party. The boy who stayed at home could not believe it and was greatly offended. More than that, he would take no part in the celebration despite the father’s pleading and his being given the assurance that he too was loved and cherished. The story is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It could just as easily be called The Parable of the Loving Father. When Jesus speaks of the love of God, it is of a father’s love he speaks: our Heavenly Father.
The love of God be with you, always.