But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us
The world is full of contrasts – such as darkness and light, health and sickness, love and hate. This verse brings us to the most important contrast of all! The unassuming little word “but” opens a beautiful section describing what God has done to remedy the dire condition of the human race detailed in the previous three verses.
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of God’s actions, Paul starts out by telling us more about our Creator and what motivates Him. The first thing we learn is that God is “rich in mercy.” The word “rich” paints a picture of abounding wealth – a treasure so abundant that it can never be exhausted! The term “mercy” means “compassion” or “benevolence.” It indicates a desire to show favor and alleviate suffering. Such is God’s attitude towards mankind! His mercy will never run out!
In the original Greek text the words “because of” or “on account of” are used. They show us God’s ultimate motivation – love! He is merciful because He loves us. The Greek term “agape” refers to the highest form of love, one so strong that it is willing to sacrifice itself for the benefit of the loved one.
Despite mankind’s rebellion and sin, in spite of all the horrors committed by human hands, God is nonetheless full of love and mercy. Paul gives us a glimpse into the divine heart – and we see an attitude of compassion, kindness, goodwill, and sacrificial love. How can we not respond in kind?