This article is part of our 7 Core Values series, a seven-year emphasis in the IPHC. Read more about this and the other core values in the 7 Core Values section of our Website.
God Is Love
Isaiah 54 explicitly and strongly conveys the message God is love. While Jerusalem is described as a forsaken wife (54:1, 4, 6), God is the loving husband (54:5). Though Jerusalem was forsaken for a brief moment (54:7, 8) because she had turned away from God, He declared He will call her back (54:6) and will love her with His everlasting “kindness” (54:8; Hebrew, hesed).(1) This is a great word in the Hebrew Scripture, which encompasses the ideas of goodness, kindness, and faithfulness. Since God has entered into a covenantal relationship with his people, His loving-kindness is shown specifically by His fidelity to the covenant. Also, it is a love that is freely given because God is generous, and it is everlasting because God is eternal. During the time of the Old Testament, a husband did not have any obligation to show mercy to his disloyal wife. God, as the husband of Jerusalem, however, was obliged by His own loving-kindness so that He will have compassion on His rebellious people.
Love Is Giving
But love is not just about forgiving; love is giving! What made the outburst of anger to turn into everlasting loving-kindness is the self-sacrifice of God’s suffering servant, as was made clear in the fourth Servant Song (Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12). Historically, this song had been used to illustrate the suffering of the only Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. In the Hebrew Scripture, prophets Jeremiah, Amos, and Zechariah spoke of the great pain God would bear (Jeremiah 6:26; Amos 8:10; Zechariah 12:10). This helps us to feel the weight of God’s love, for the giving of the Son is the summit of that love. When Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,” He was not talking about a love without cost; to the contrary, it is a love that had caused the giver unfathomable pain, the greatest loss one could ever have imagined! Through God’s example, we learn that to love is to be radically generous, not just giving one’s surplus, but to the point of giving one’s life.
On Giving and Stewardship
Our Lord Jesus, as the exact representation of God’s nature, taught us radical generosity and stewardship in the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35) and the parable of the talents (25:14-30) respectively. In the first parable, we are told that God is a loving master moved with compassion to cancel the debt of a servant, for the debt was too big for the servant to pay back by many lifetimes of labor. This same servant, who was shown such mercy, however, threatened to send one of his fellow servants to jail until he could pay him back. Jesus told His disciples in the Farewell Discourse (John 13-17) that, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (15:13). Once again we see, love is giving, and even radical giving of one’s life; and Jesus’ disciples were urged again and again to “love one another” according to the example Jesus had set for them (13:34, 35; 15:12, 17).
In the second parable, we are informed that God entrusts us with everything we have at His sole discretion. We are not called to judge whether we have received too much or too little, but are to make use of all our talents for the purpose of serving the Lord, both faithfully and humbly. The most desirable recognition we can have from the Lord at the end of the day is, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21, 23) Our late Presiding Bishop B. E. Underwood clarified in his book Spiritual Gifts that there are two types of gifts in the letters of Paul, namely the “ministry gifts” (Ephesians 4:11) and the “manifestation gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:8-10). While Christ gave us “according to the measure” ministry gifts (Ephesians 4:7), the Holy Spirit “distributed to us just as He wills” the manifestation gifts (1 Corinthians 12:11), thus we are able to equip one another and to edify the church. Therefore, as the theologian Millard Erickson puts it, “Stewardship does not mean giving God a part of what is ours, some of our time or some of our money. All of life has been entrusted to us for our use, but it still belongs to God and must be used to serve and glorify Him.”(2)
“It Is More Blessed to Give than to Receive”
We Are Called to Be Radically Generous…
…Radically Generous to World Missions
…Radically Generous to People in Need
…Radically Generous to Our Neighbors