If there was a vote to select the most devastating passage in the Bible, Genesis 6:5-6 needs to be a leading candidate:
"The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart."
Could you get more graphic, more specific, more all-inclusive words than these? Perhaps even more shocking is the deeply personal nature, describing such heartbreak that you can imagine tears streaming from the Creator.
What could be so significant to evoke a response like this from the King of the universe?
A personal betrayal of relational love.
You see, whether you know it or not, all of us are lovers. It sounds funny, but you were hardwired to love. Everything you do, have done, and will do in your life is motivated by love.
Our first and only love was meant to be for our Creator. Jesus says that the great and first commandment is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:36).
Out of that love for God comes obedience to the rest of his commands. Because we love God the lawgiver, we find joy in staying within his boundaries.
But something horrible happened. After the Fall, a seductive, powerful, and deceptive love replaced the love we were meant to have exclusively for God: the love of self.
When we choose to love ourselves, it becomes very easy for us to overstep God's boundaries, because our hearts aren't motivated by love for him anymore. And when we violate his law, designed to give us life, evil thrives in a way that Genesis 6:5 describes.
And so, humanity needed to be rescued. Someone needed to do for us what we could not do for ourselves: defeat the love of self and restore the love of God in our hearts.
"And he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised" (2 Corinthians 5:15).
This Advent season, celebrate the baby who came to deliver betraying lovers like me and you back to our original love. But also remember that the rescuing work of the Messiah is both an event and a process.
By grace, we are no longer slaves to the love of self, free to experience the soul satisfying love of God. Yet the love of self still remains, so we must be aware of the battle for two loves that is being fought on the turf of our heart in the situations, locations, and relationships of everyday life.
One day, because that baby came, every cell of our heart will be captivated by the love of God, and we'll live joyfully inside his boundaries forever and ever.
Now that's a reason to celebrate Christmas!