Here is an astonishing thing. It is not the fact that God loves, but how God loves. What manner of love is this! Literally, the Greek for “what manner” is “of what country” is this! It is an exclamation of astonishment, of surprise. What kind of country is this, what foreign land is this, that is represented in love like that! It is the strangeness of God’s love that is in view in this whole thing. How is God’s love strange? “Well,” John says, “in that it makes us the children of God.”
Perhaps some of you are thinking, “You may be surprised at this, but I’m not. Why shouldn’t I be a child of God, like anyone else?” If you think this, then you do not understand righteousness. Romans 5 reveals to us how God saw us when He found us: “When we were still powerless,” when we were helpless, when we were unable to make any contribution to the redemption we desperately needed, when there was not a thing we could do about it, and even our good was tainted with self-interest so that we could make no contribution whatsoever, “at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly”—for us (v. 6). But it does not stop there: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (v. 8). “While we were still sinners,” or while we were proud, overbearing in our attitude toward God, treating Him with condescension and indifference. When we were this way, Christ died for us. Even this does not exhaust His description.
He goes on a verse or two later to say, “If, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son . . .” (v. 10). “If, when we were God’s enemies”; not only without strength, not only sinners, proud and prickly in our attitude, but also when we were absolutely opposed to God, enemies of His grace, treacherous, hateful, resenting what God was doing and resisting every attempt He made to reach us. Now, John says, what amazing love! God flings the bloodstained mantle of His love over us and calls us His children. And He not only calls us this, but He actually makes us so: “And that is what we are” (1 John 3:1)!
Isn’t that amazing? Do you ever think of yourself as in this condition when God found you, and you would still be like that if God had not found you? What kind of pride is it that makes us think of ourselves as some kind of special catch that God has made? How fortunate He ought to feel that we have consented to join his side! No, “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called sons of God.”
That is the extent of God’s love. God desires that His enemies should become
His children and that His children should become mature sons and daughters.
Lord, I echo these words of John: “What manner of love” has been bestowed upon me, that I should be called a child of God; and so I am. I know it is true, even though I do not always act like it. Teach me to live as Your obedient child.