1 John 4:9-11 (NIV): “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
1) God loved us first, even while we were still sinners
One of the most beautiful truths of the Biblical narrative is that God loved us before we loved Him. When we were blind and deaf to His presence, He still lavished us with blessing. Even the people today who do not know Him, and even those who revile, dishonor, and spit upon His name, He still loved--and loves--them without condition. The truth of the Gospel is this: that God so loved us that He sent His one and only Son, that whoever believes in His name would be saved. His name is Jesus Christ, and when we were enemies with God, He still loved us enough to die for our sins so that we could become a new creation.
Whenever we doubt the presence of God in our life or the truth that He loves us and is with us, it is important to look back to the cross at Calvary. God established His love for us eternally through the sacrifice of Jesus. Even before the onset of sin when man first fell, God already had plans to bless the ones that turned away from Him--which is everyone. Even in our day-to-day lives when we slip up, make mistakes, or blatantly go against what God wants, He has already been in our mess and has already provided us a way out. And that way is by the blood of the Lamb.
The first sentence of the passage in 1 John reaffirms God’s method of reconnecting us to Himself through Christ, and how we can live through Him. This demonstrates the utter depth of God’s love: we--being imperfect, broken clay pots--are so loved by this perfect Being that He still wants us to live through Him. He wants us to live with Him; He wants to dwell within us! How absurd is that!? Think about a worm, or a fly, or a mosquito, or--worst of all--a wasp. Imagine giving your life up for a wasp. That is a hard pass from me; those wicked devils. Especially with summer now, those things are running rampant once again. Nonetheless, how absurd does that sound: a human giving up their life to save a wasp? Or a fly? Or a worm? Sounds quite ridiculous--and rightly so. A human’s life far outweighs a wicked wasp’s--no one on this planet would even think to trade their life for such a foolish exchange.
Yet, this is what we see in the Gospel. You and I, we are like the wasps. And not to blaspheme, but simply to put this parable into an understandable perspective, God would be the human. And, as ridiculous as it may seem, God gave up His life for us--like a human giving up their life for a wasp; for a fly; for a worm. Am I calling you and myself a worm? Actually, yes, I am, because, in comparison to the God that created all things, we are worms compared to such a Being (and a worm is probably being quite generous).
2) God has no equal
This infinite God has no equal--nothing even comes close. Satan, before his fall, was unmatched in his splendor amongst all the mightiest angels and cherubim--that is until he thought himself equal to God (Ezekiel 28:11-19). In his pride, satan fell, and instead of attaining godship, he became the lowest of the low. What caused satan to fall was his pride, “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty” (Ezekiel 28:17 NKJV). The mistake he made--and one that we make all the time--is that he forgot his place in the pecking order.
God is the Alpha and the Omega; the First and the Last; the Great I AM. If the analogy I previously mentioned offends you, please use wisdom and discernment in digesting the truth of the message. But, I concede; the trick of the parable is this: everything is akin to a worm, fly, mosquito, or wasp when compared to the One who IS. Even this comparison of God as a human and us as insects does God a great injustice. To even compare His majesty and power in such a way as comparing a human to an insect is entirely and utterly skewed, and underplays the power and character of the Living God. So, if the analogy I used offends you, then the offense you currently have is not near what it should be.
But, because God is so good, so entirely holy, and so completely other, He does not leave us in the dirt from whence we came; He does not leave us to die as worms in the dust. We are made in the image of God, but our sin has brought us low. Our selfish ways and sinful nature have made us enemies of God. And though we were made to walk with the Lord Almighty as men and women of God, we forsook His blessing and made ourselves into mere insects. And yet, while we were mindlessly wandering and leading ourselves to our doom, God reached out His hand for you and me. He loved us even while we were His enemies. Even while we thought ourselves equal to Him. A wasp believing itself to be equal to a man. A grain of sand thinking itself equal to a galaxy. An atom convinced it is comparable to a multiverse.
3) Jesus, the atoning sacrifice
This is God’s love: “not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10 NIV). God presented His love to us in Jesus Christ, who came to set us all free by being an atoning sacrifice for our sins. What is an atoning sacrifice? In Leviticus 16 in the Old Testament, detail is given on how to sacrifice bulls, rams, and goats for the payment of sin. The main message in a brief synopsis: the punishment of sin is death, and a sacrifice is required to take the place of the one who committed the sin and thus receive the justice that is due. In the Old Testament, this was done with certain animals, per God’s instruction. But as we see in 1 John, the sacrifices of the Old Testament simply foreshadow the coming of the sacrifice that would be done once and for all. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23).
This is the Gospel: God loved us so much, that He became our sin so that we could become His righteousness. Christ took our state of existence as insects (because of sin) upon Himself, and became a worm; a fly; a mosquito; a wicked wasp--so that we could become sons and daughters of the Most High. Why do you think Christ referenced Psalm 22 in Matthew 27:46? God became us so that we could become one with Him: “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people.” (Psalm 22:6 ESV). Jesus is referencing Psalm 22: that means God is calling Himself... a worm? Christ humbled Himself to the point of death, even to the death of a cross, so that we wouldn’t have to. Can it be that God loves you and me that much? That, no matter what sin and brokenness and doubts you have within you, God still was willing to die for you in the worst possible way? That He was willing to lay down His own holy and perfect life to save you? That the Almighty God became a worm for your sake?
4) God gave up His life to save yours
It is in this reality that God communicates what He is trying to say to us: we are not worthless insects, because the price He paid for us is beyond any value that we can comprehend. The truth of the matter is that God has given us immeasurable worth by sacrificing Himself for us. God is greater than all things, yet, at the same time, this loving God died for us so that we could live through Him. He gave us His worth. And in Jesus, we no longer have to be valued by what we ourselves produce--which, without God, leads to death. But in Christ, we are sons and daughters of God, making your life and mine so profoundly valuable that one cannot truly put such value into words. The sacrifice Jesus made to lay down His life for us cannot be fully understood or defined--to do so would be to fully understand and define who God is.
Let us remember that God did not come to this world to judge you and me, but to save us. Though judgment is in the hands of the Lord, His will is to show mercy. And mercy has been shown, no matter what we may go through in this broken world and no matter what people may say. God is good. God is loving. And God loves you. Don’t buy the lies of the enemy; don’t feed into the fear of satan. The devil only trades out of what he is full of, and all he wants from you is separation from your Creator. But even he, with all his dark powers and influence, can do nothing against the King who sits on High, “He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens.” (Revelation 3:7 NKJV). God has opened a door for you and me that none can shut--but are we willing to walk through it?
Through Christ’s sacrifice, we see God’s ultimate expression of love, and out of His agape love, we are called to love others in the same way. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7 NKJV). “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:9-11 NIV). Just as Christ loved us when we were still His enemies, so too should we love others that seek to do us wrong. And we can walk boldly in this endeavor because, though the price God paid for us was great, His grace was greater and He is alive, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth.” (Job 19:25 NKJV).