Several weeks ago I had the privilege of watching a skywriter in action. It was great fun to watch as the pilot dipped and swerved and spelled out a wonderful message: "Love God."
The message made me think of Deuteronomy 6, when the people of God are admonished: "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength." More than just good advice, this commandment makes up part of the Shema and is a central piece of Jewish teaching.
You may remember the story recorded in Matthew 22, when a Pharisee asked Jesus, "What is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
Jesus answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:37-40, NKJV).
That pilot picked a powerful couple of words to write in the sky.
But this Eastertide, as I consider the death of Jesus, I keep thinking of how different the skywriter's message would have been if he'd added a comma between the two words. I'm a grammar nerd, I know, but bear with me. Think about it. "Love God" is a good message--worthy of being written in the sky!--but "Love, God" is amazing.
It's no surprise that God would expect us to love him. He's God, after all; he deserves to be adored and worshipped. But that he would love us so much that he would give his son to die for us? That's astounding! Stupendous! Awe-inspiring!
John 3:16 is so familiar to us that it has become almost hackneyed. We look for it on signs in the stands at ballgames or emblazoned on billboards. Read it again today:
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
That's the story of Good Friday: the love of God poured out for us. "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" (I John 4:9-10, NIV).
Write it in the sky! Proclaim it from the rooftops!