In Romans 5, Paul hits the ground running, painting as fast as he can the most bold and beautiful strokes possible to catch the imangination of his readers:
...justified through faith
...shalom with God through Jesus Christ
...we stand in grace
...we boast in the hope of the glory of God
...we also glory in our sufferings
...we KNOW that suffering produces perseverance
...we KNOW that perseverance produces character
...we KNOW that character produces hope
...and we KNOW that hope does not put us to shame.
Now, read this very carefully...
God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Read that line again.
Okay, one more time.
Go ahead and ponder a bit what that might mean for what you are capable of being for other people...
Here you are, beating yourself up for all your mistakes, depressingly aware of how you messed up, feeling blue over your failures in life. And you lament the consequences, you get frustrated at how you've missed opportunities to really do something with your life.
But if you've opened up your heart to God...and he pours all of his loyalty, generosity, beauty, power, compassion, patience into you...consider what you now have to offer people. Consider...it's hard to believe...
My dad and I hung out at my Starbucks the other day. We were having a good chat, catching up on stuff, talking about God, life, church, ministry, etc. We got to talking about sin, and how a pastor ought to address sin in the church, sin and its consequences. Dad said this really beautiful truth which I will now paraphrase: "A pastor helps people work through their consequences."
People with hearts open to God still sin. But their hearts also are brimming over with God. And that reality changes everything. Now, when I sin, through faith I received by grace from God through Jesus...I can work through those consequences...which is a form of suffering, which produces perseverance, character, hope in God.
When Paul tells us about God's love, he has in mind all of God's love as demonstrated in the OT, and which is culminated in the resurrection of Jesus. God tells us about his love: he is a compassionate God, slow to anger, generous in love, loyal for over a thousand generations. That is the kind of love he pours into our hearts, that then brims over and spills into the lives of your sons and daughter, your father and mother, your brothers and sisters, your neighbors and coworkers; to the poor and the oppressed, to the hungry and the diseased, to the imprisoned and the disadvantaged.
What could you do with a heart brimming over with Loyalty and Generosity?