By Nay Ridgway
It is difficult to know where to begin when talking about love. Love is a theme displayed and interwoven throughout the entire Bible. It is the motive behind creation, the heart of the gospel and the core of Christianity as a whole. So, we can recognise its prevalence, but what really is love? Why do we need it and why is God the epitome of it?
I think a good place to start is John 3:16. It reads: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”. Although love is actually mentioned 684 times in the Bible (ESV), I believe that this verse is a powerful summary of what love actually is. Essentially love is the foundation of life with Jesus. We were not only created out of love, but forgiven, freed from sin and death and given instead, the gift of eternal life; all because of love. God’s love.
One of the most powerful things about God’s love is the fact that unlike the worldly ‘love’ that we’re conditioned to, God’s love cannot be earned. God loves you whether you believe it or not, whether you want him to or not and whether or not you love him in return. Love is not a transactional feeling that God experiences and dishes out when he feels like it. Love is God’s character. This can be seen in the Old Testament, where Moses tells the Israelites that “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you...it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). Put simply, God’s love for us has nothing to do with who we are or what we have or haven’t done. God’s love is inevitable. In fact, just as we cannot control God’s love for us, the Bible tells us that there is nothing we can do to separate ourselves from it either. We can read this in Romans 8:38-39:
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”. Ultimately, God’s love is all-powerful and there is nothing that can overcome it or separate us from it.
Perhaps you are reading this and you’re feeling exhausted. Exhausted from continuously striving to seek or experience others’ love. Perhaps every now and then you get that affirmation that you have been longing for, but before you know it it’s gone again, leaving an emptiness within you. Well, if that is you, I want to tell you what differentiates God’s love from that kind of emptiness. Firstly, worldly love feels like it needs to be earned, God’s love is offered freely. Worldly love can feel uncertain and constantly changing, God’s love is steadfast and remains the same through all of time. Worldly love can be shallow and transactional, God’s love is deep, powerful, life-giving and never ending.
Now, I am not saying that all other love is bad or illegitimate. Love as a feeling or a loving deed is arguably one of the strongest parts of human encounter. But, so often we end up pinning our hopes on the love of other people and end up counting on what turns out to be simply just a feeling. God’s love sustains and fulfils us in ways that no form of worldly love could ever do.
Whether you believe this or not, it is difficult to deny this innate desire and longing that we have as humans to love, and be loved.
As Christians, we believe that there is a purpose behind this makeup of ours which longs to be fulfilled by love. It is because God created us to be this way. Not only did he create us in his own image, but it is God’s desire for us to accept his free gift of grace - the most loving gift of all. In turn loving him, and learning to love others as we have been loved.
I could go on. Instead, I will leave these brief thoughts here by saying that if we truly want to feel satisfied, content, fulfilled, then God’s love is the only thing that will ultimately fill that void.
True love is God’s character; kind, patient, slow to anger, powerful, life-giving, faithful and steadfast.
1 John 4:7-12
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love…
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us”