Love is a Many-Splendored Thing
It’s February and love is in the air. Flower, Hallmark, and condom sales are up as couples everywhere celebrate their feelings for each other. Even the canine industry has capitalized on consumer weakness to express affection toward their dogs through the buying and giving of “stuff.” Dogs would be more than content to go for a walk and then eat all the leftovers from that romantic night out, but instead what they often get is a high pitched squeal and a heart shaped box of dog-safe treats pretending to be chocolate. What a bunch of suckers we are when it comes to love: for other people and our dogs. Why do we fall for such sappy forms of sentiment that impersonate the real thing?
The word love means something different to everyone. The definition changes depending on how it’s used. My love for my husband, my children, my dog, and my love for those white magic eraser sponges that work miracles on my bathtub are hardly the same thing. And yet, this one little word describes my affection for each. I find this problematic especially in reference to the Almighty God of the Universe and His great love for us.
The world proclaims in a loud and unified voice that love is love. The trend in modern Christianity declares that love wins. I’m not quite sure what those expressions mean but the Bible says that God is love and that Jesus is the risen and glorified Victor. He has won! If I want to know what love looks like, what it means, how it’s expressed and how it is received, then it’s imperative I get to know Love as He is, not as I want or imagine Him to be.
But getting to know the God of the Bible can be like getting to know a majestic yet wild, carnivorous lion. He is not to be trifled with. The Bible teaches that God created the universe and put the breath of life in our lungs. And this same God of love sent a flood to destroy that very life and wipe it from the earth. He is a God who loves righteousness and justice. And at the same time He loves compassion and mercy. Of His chosen and beloved people, Israel, the God (who is love) rejoiced to prosper and to bless them when they responded to His love with obedience. But He also rejoiced to ruin and destroy them when they forgot Him (Deuteronomy 28). He has all the tenderness and compassion of a loving father and the terrible wrath and passion of a jilted husband.
God Himself, in His entire mysterious dichotomy, is the true definition of love. He is the real thing that all other “loves” must be measured and compared against. Where my own or the world’s limited (and oftentimes sentimental) understanding of love conflicts with God or His word, what will I do? Will I lean on my own human reason or in all of my ways will I acknowledge and submit to Him?
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10