ROMANS 5: SURPRISING LOVE
THE GREEK AND ROMAN GODS NEVER LOVED HUMANITY
and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:5-8).
Historian and New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado, in his book Destroyer of the gods, shares the fascinating discovery that nowhere in the ancient world can he find a description of a Greco-Roman god ever loving humanity. The gods might be merciful or generous or benevolence but never are they described as loving people. Imagine then the surprise a person in the first century might have in hearing the good news of Jesus Christ: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
And just as startling is God extends this love to us before we are reconciled or responsive. God makes the first move. God yearns to be in relationship with us. This is at the heart of the meaning of God’s righteousness. This divine love of God is expressed in Christ’s death for us. God’s love is both unconditional and sacrificial. We can see why the gospel of Jesus Christ spread across the Roman Empire and made it to Rome even before Paul could get there.
But this is also a message that we need to hear today too. At the heart of the universe is a God who loves us before we could do anything.
How does your understanding of God shift in light of this focus on God’s love? How can you reflect this unconditional and sacrificial love to your family, your neighbors, your co-works, to people you don’t even like?
Lord God, your love is overwhelming and more than I can comprehend. Help me to experience this love in the deepest parts of myself. Help me to extend this love to others. In the name of the one who died for us. Amen.
Mark Manassee is Senior Minister of Culver Palms Church of Christ, a vibrant mosaic of people representing the rich cultural and ethnic diversity of Los Angeles. "Our experiences are varied," says the church, "but we are united in and by the love of Christ." The Journey: A New Generation Church of Christ thanks Mark for writing on The Journey Bible Project Blog.