For many years I have sought to understand how the God-centeredness of God relates to his love for sinners like us. Most people do not immediately see God's passion for the glory of God as an act of love. One reason for this is that we have absorbed the world's definition of love. It says: You are loved when you are made much of. In other words, love for someone means mainly making him or her central or important.
The main problem with this definition of love is that when you try to apply it to God's love for us, it distorts reality. God's love for us is NOT mainly his making much of us, but his giving us the ability to enjoy making much of him forever. In other words, God's love for us keeps God at the center. God's love for us exalts his value and our satisfaction in it. If God's love made us central and focused on our value, it would distract us from what is most precious, namely, himself. Love labors and suffers to enthrall us with what is infinitely and eternally satisfying: God. Therefore God's love labors and suffers to break our bondage to the idol of self and focus our affections on the treasure of God.
I saw this afresh in the story of Lazarus' sickness and death.
Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick." 4 But when Jesus heard this, He said, "This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it." 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.
Notice three amazing things:
1) Jesus chose to let Lazarus die. Verse 6: "When He heard he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where he was." There was no hurry. His intention was not to spare the family grief, but to raise Lazarus from the dead.
2) He was motivated by a passion for the glory of God displayed in his own glorious power. Verse 4: "This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it."
3) Nevertheless, both the decision to let Lazarus die and the motivation to magnify God were expressions of love for Mary and Martha and Lazarus. Verse 5: "Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus . . . so he stayed . . . where he was."
Oh how many people today – even Christians – would murmur at Jesus for callously letting Lazarus die and putting him and Mary and Martha and others through the pain and misery of those days. And if they saw that this was motivated by Jesus' desire to magnify the glory of God, many would call this harsh or unloving. What this shows is how far above the glory of God most people value pain-free lives. For most people love is whatever puts human value and human well-being at the center. So Jesus' behavior is unintelligible to them.
But let us not tell Jesus what love is. Let us not instruct him how he should love us and make us central. Let us learn from Jesus what love is and what our true well-being is. Love is doing whatever you need to do to help people see and savor the glory of God forever and ever. Love keeps God central. Because the soul was made for God.
Jesus confirms that we are on the right track here by praying in John 17:24, "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world." The love of Jesus drives him to pray for us and then die for us, NOT that our value may be central, but that his glory may be central, and we may see it and savor it for all eternity. "That they may see My glory!" – for that he let Lazarus die, and for that he went to the cross.By John Piper. ©Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org. Email: mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 888.346.4700.