“What does it mean to be loved?” When I first heard the question, I thought it was another theological abstraction or doctrinal test. Perhaps that initial thought is a sad commentary on the current partisan nature of the Church. Instead of secret handshakes and passwords, we have developed obscure doctrinal questions with narrow and sometimes questionable Scriptural support so that we can differentiate between the “true believers” (people like us) and the deceived (everyone else).
Once I recovered from this initial thought, I looked and saw the pain and longing in his eyes. There was no abstraction in the question. This was a gut wrenching cry to understand what it means to hear and believe that “God loves me, even me.”
Unfortunately, we too often read Romans as a theological treatise and not as a letter written to a church struggling to understand a concept of love very different from the world around them. I’m not so sure that the church today is all that different from the church to which Paul wrote. We still struggle to comprehend with our minds how God could love us. We hide behind intellectual discussions and theologically charged words like “justification” in a vain attempt to guard our hearts from fully experiencing the life changing love of God.
What if instead we read this passage of Romans (Romans 5:1-11) as an answer to the question, “What does it mean to be loved?” The first part of the question is “How can I be lovable?” Paul’s answer is simple, you are lovable (justified) because God loves you. There is no other reason at all.
When we believe that we are lovable by faith in Jesus Christ, or in Paul’s terms when we receive justification by faith, several things happen. We experience peace with God, we stand in the grace of God, and we rejoice in the glory of God. God’s love is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. By faith in the love of God for us expressed by the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, we are able to be loved by God and to love others as His love overflows from our hearts.
If theology is understood as “faith seeking understanding,” perhaps the only truly useful theological question truly is, “What does it mean to be loved?” I pray that in this season of prayerful growth, each of you will open yourselves to rest in the love of God and understand with your hearts what it means to be loved.