John 3:16, 17 says: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” Furthermore, the Apostle John says, “God is love” (1 John 4:8).
The above verse is the very heart of the Gospel. It is the reason we are here, the reason the Church exists. It is the message we preach, Christ and him crucified, for the sake of love, for the salvation of the world. St. Paul claimed to preach this message and nothing else.
God is love—even before He creates; His love is not just an expression of His will towards creation, or simply an attribute, but rather God loves by nature—because of who He is. Love is intrinsic to His Unknowable Essence.
“When we are young, we have a place inside us where we store up all the attention and love that makes us feel good about ourselves. Let’s call it a “love bucket”. If for whatever reason, we don’t get enough of what we need in our bucket, it will develop holes in it. Then when we’re older and we try to fill up our “love bucket”, it leaks and we end up feeling unloved and needy. It seems that the more we try to get love, affection and attention, the faster it leaks out, leaving us feeling alone and unloved, not to mention exhausted.
The only way we can stop the cycle is to let God fill our bucket. His love will patch the holes and fill our bucket to overflowing. When we let God’s love in, we come to know that we are treasured. His love lets us experience who we are in Him. We begin to realize how valuable and special we are. We no longer have to try to impress people so they will love us. That desperation to be loved and noticed melts away. We are secure in the knowledge that the God of the universe is crazy about us. We no longer need the approval of men. And once that happens, people will be drawn to you. They can sense the love of God in you and it’s like a people magnet. And you get even more love! And soon your heart is overflowing with love. Your ‘love bucket’ runneth over!” I am not sure where I got the above quote from, though I thought it was fitting here as we talk about God’s love for us.
The ultimate cause of salvation in John 3:16 is God’s love. God was not morally obligated to save a world that had rebelled against its Creator, but the love that motivated Him to create us motivated Him to restore us to a positive relationship with Him.
Hear the teaching of one the greatest Orthodox saints, Gregory of Nyssa. “Know to what extent the Creator has honored you above all creation. The sky is not an image of God, nor is the moon, nor the sun, nor the beauty of the stars, nor anything of what can be seen in creation. You alone have been made the image of the Reality that transcends all understanding, the likeness of imperishable beauty, the imprint of true divinity, the recipient of beatitude, the seal of the true light. When you turn to him you become that which he is himself…There is nothing so great among beings that it can be compared with your greatness. God is able to measure the whole heaven with his span. The earth and the sea are enclosed in the hollow of his hand. And although he is so great and holds all creation in the palm of his hand, you are able to hold him, he dwells in you and moves within you without constraint, for he has said, ‘I will live and move among them’ (2 Corinthians 6.16).”
St. John of Kronstadt states, “God is love, and I am an image of God; therefore I ought to be all love. God is the most perfect good, free from the least shadow of evil; I am an image of God; therefore I ought also to be perfectly good, without even a shadow of evil.” And, “To love God with all your heart means — to love with all your soul meekness, humility, purity and chastity, wisdom, truth, mercy, obedience, for the sake of God, and never to act contrarily to these virtues; that is, not to become proud, irritated, angry against anyone; not to commit adultery even in the heart; not to violate chastity, either by look, thought, or gesture; to avoid every inconsiderate, needless word and deed; to shun every iniquity; to hate avarice and covetousness; to flee from self-will and disobedience.”
So what are you doing this Christmas/Nativity season?
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”