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Two Pictures of God’s Love

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When you think about love, what’s the first picture that comes to mind?

It might be a scene from a movie, or favorite photo of your parents, or a memory of your first love.

People often think in pictures.

No wonder, then, that God often teaches using vivid imagery and word pictures.

For example, take His love.

Yes, God loves you. In all your faults and imperfections and sins, God loves you. As Jesus taught, He loves the world:

For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

Are you part of the world? Of course, you are. So, God loves you.

That is not an accidental part of God’s character but Who He is. As John reminds us, love is at the heart of God’s existence:

God is love (1 John 4:8b).

But what kind of love is it? And how does He love you? You can say the words until they lose their meaning. So, it might help to think about it in terms of a picture.

The Bible uses at least two different pictures of God’s love.

First, God loves you like a father loves a child.

Jesus taught us to pray to “Our Father in heaven” (Matt 6:9). God is your heavenly Father. And Jesus said He is the kind of Father who knows how to give good gifts to His children (cf. Matt 7:11). He is a good Father.

But there’s a shortcoming to that image of God’s love. We live in a fallen world where fathers don’t always love their children, treat them well, or even stick around. And when many people think of fathers, they think of someone who lays down the law, makes demand after endless demand, and punishes severely. And if that’s part of your experience with fathers, it will distort your understanding of God’s love for you.

If you had a good experience with your father, it’s easier to understand God’s love for you. But even if you had a bad father, you probably longed for a good one. Did he make you think, “A good father would never act this way!” Even bad fathers can help you imagine what a good father would be like. And God is that good father who gives the best gifts—such as everlasting life (Eph 2:8-9).

Second, God loves you like a husband loves his bride.

This Biblical picture of God’s love is even more intimate. The scene changes from parenthood to marriage. Many commentators have seen the Song of Songs, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, God’s marriage to Israel, and Christ’s marriage to the Church, as pictures of God’s spousal love. These are corporate relationships—relationships between God and His people. But it shows the depth of His love for us.

Marriage and parenthood are the bedrock of any loving society. And as it turns out, they’re also the bedrock images for understanding God’s love for you.

Thought for the day: When the Bible paints a picture of God’s love, it’s often a family portrait.

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