Worship & Theology: How He Loves

Worship & Theology is a series of posts produced by the members of our worship team to explore the spiritual and biblical meaning found within some of the songs we sing.  Our hope is that these posts would increase our understanding of God and our love for Him, while adding depth to our time of worship together.  Enjoy.


Would you believe this song was the result of an angry conversation with God following the death of the author’s best friend in a car wreck?  At first, it seems like a surprising response.  But the song takes our cultural norms and perceptions about love – that it’s pretty, cute, easy, and clean – and tears them apart at the seams by showing how (not just how much) God loves us.

We tend to focus on the chorus of this song.  It feels good to sing that God loves us, but if we don’t see those words through the lens of each verse, we’re missing the theme.  The real message of the song is in the verses, where we find a celebration of the nature of God and the character of His love – the why and how of it.  The chorus is a summary, but there is so much meaning between the lines that we can miss if we don’t examine the word “love.”
 

Jealous God

He is jealous for me
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy
When all of a sudden
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
And I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me

In Exodus 20, God says to Moses “…for I the Lord your God am a jealous God…”  This is part of the 2nd commandment, where God admonishes against idols. That’s similar to the 1st commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me.”  Remember, the commandments aren’t a set of rules as much as they are an identity and purpose for the people of God.  See, He loves us.  He is even (righteously) jealous for us. He desires us.

I love the imagery of this song.  Think of the worst hurricane you’ve even heard of.  Now imagine it’s infinitely long and you were born somewhere in the middle of it.  No one knows exactly how long the wind’s been blowing, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.  If we truly felt the weight of God’s love for us, we couldn’t stand up under it.  No matter how we fight it, his love is relentless – we bend and fold under it until it consumes us.  Hallelujah.

And then we see God’s glory and all of our afflictions are overwhelmingly covered, eclipsed, by it through God’s goodness and grace.  Afflictions could mean sins, relationship problems, diseases, or identity issues.  What are your afflictions?  God is more that sufficient to cover them.
 

How does God love us?

Oh, how He loves us so
Oh, how He loves us
How He loves us so.
 

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.  In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  We love because he first loved us. - 1 John 4:16-19 (NIV)

 
His love is reliable and unfailing.  He loves us in the way we need to be loved – enough to save us, so we can rely on that love, because we can’t be saved any other way.  He loves us completely (perfectly), in a way to draw us in through our submission, not to intimidate us into trying to earn salvation (see Ephesians 2:8-9).  He loved us first, and continues to love us even when we don’t love Him.  Even when we turn our backs, He will always love us first.

The words to the chorus are a good reminder of God’s love for us, but let’s look to the next verse to further discover His character.

Why?

We are His portion and He is our prize
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If His grace is an ocean we’re all sinking
So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way…

 

But the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.  He found him in the desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept his as the apple of his eye. - Deuteronomy 32:9-10 (ESV)


We are God’s portion, set aside because he has claimed us as His own.  He chose us first, and it is because we are chosen that we can be reconciled to Him.  We’re drawn by his grace and love.  He is our prize.  In verse 10 above (and in verses 11-14 of the same passage), the Lord guided, fed, and cared for his people in the desert.  He is what we strive for.  In 1 Corinthians 9:24-25, Paul wrote about athletes running a race.  Paul wrote, “They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”  Jesus is our risen-from-the-dead, imperishable, eternal prize.  Paul also wrote in Philippians 3:14, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Jesus attained it for us, because we couldn’t.
 

More Imagery

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people. - Titus 2:11

We’re sinking in the ocean of God’s grace.  First, as we learn His heart, we are continually flooded by his unending grace.  Second, we need His grace more every day.  Since He desires us, He gives us the grace we need to be with Him forever.  The image of sinking alludes to the real “how” of the love we’ve been talking about.  Sinking means we’re getting soaked from head to toe. 

Then there’s the “sloppy wet kiss.”   Does that seem uncomfortable, or even gross, to sing?  Good, that means you’re beginning to understand.  It’s sloppy and wet because it’s not clean or glamorous.  It has to be a kiss because of the intimacy of it.  I think of Judas, betraying Jesus by brushing his lips against the cheek of his master.  But Jesus, sloppy and wet, endured the dirty cross so He could spend eternity with lost, gross, sin-soaked people who have nothing but filthy rags to offer Him.  And we often hoard even those rags from Him.

In spite of us, He loves us.

You might be thinking David Crowder’s version of the song says “unforeseen kiss.”  You’re right.  Crowder is right too.  Unforeseen means not anticipated or predicted.  This song was written after a very angry time in the writer’s life.  It was unforeseen that even during that anger and sin, God was there, loving, and that God would remind the writer who He is and who we are in Him – gently, like a kiss.

And the love story of God’s pursuit of us is wonderful.  Our only natural reaction is for our hearts to turn violently inside our chests, an outpouring of deepest joy from the core.  And when we get His love for us, it consumes us.  There’s no time or need to dwell on our past sins or shortcomings because God’s love and grace cover all of time.

The prodigal son was dirty, smelly, and covered in filth.  But when he was a long way off, his father ran to him, probably sweating along the way – adding even so to the mess of the ensuing embrace.

In light of this new perspective on love:

He loves us!
Oh, how He loves us!
Oh, how He loves us!
Oh, how He loves!


David Henderson lives in Dallas with his wife Victoria, who likes to bake pies to the glory of God.  David has played in various worship bands since middle school and took his skills to Penn State where he played drums for their prestigious band and helped lead worship with the Navigators, a national college ministry.  You can reach him at david.a.hend@gmail.com.