I had been brought up with a worldly notion of love that I think had distorted my theology. The world had told me that love was invisible and existed as a concept that could only be seen when it was given and received. In other words, love and its revelation depended on and was shaped by human activity. All of the work that has been done on ‘love language’ is powerful and extremely useful in helping us to ensure that we have healthy and loving relationships. However, there is a note of caution to be had. If we focus on love as being the product of how we interact, we are in danger of reducing it to merely an entirely human concept. Love is not a concept, an emotion or an activity. Love is a person; Jesus. We can love, only because we were born again as children of God and so took on an identity that flows from being literally ‘in’ love or ‘one’ with love. The manifest presence of God brings love, direct and unfiltered, straight from heaven. As we both enjoy and host his presence, we are intentionally communing with love himself. Unselfish, perfect, other-centred.
Jesus describes this relationship perfectly when he prays to his Father that we may be one, just as he and the Father are one. ‘As you are in me, Father and I am in you’ John 17: 21 (NIV) The seemingly impossible trinitarian Russian doll. Literally Jesus is saying that he is completely one with his Father and his Father is completely one with him. No separation. As we become born again, we too become one with Christ. We are literally crucified with him, die with him and are then raised with him. Rom 6: 3-5 (NIV) Our old self literally ceases to exist. Our spiritual circumcision cuts us away from who we were, and we become this new creation in Christ Jesus. That new creation represents the person of Jesus, the person of love. As He is love, so we too become love, in Him.
John describes this perfectly in his first letter. It is not that we loved God (our actions), but that God loved us first, as we were created out of love himself. 1 John 4: 10 (NIV) We came from God; nothing existed before God, he was pre-existent. We can initiate nothing, as nothing of us exists outside the context that he set at creation. God showed his love by showing us himself, and through that his Father. The Holy Spirit brings love directly from heaven, directly from the throne of Grace. Paul writes that love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us Rom 5: 5 (NIV). No wonder Jesus had to leave us! He had to allow us to transition from the representation of love (the incarnate Jesus) to a relationship with love (through the Holy Spirit).
Love flows from God. It comes first from him. Our first and most important responsibility as His children is to open ourselves up to accepting and receiving that love, from which place we can be obedient in loving God. We cannot love God unless we know his love through the Spirit. To fully worship God we need to be abandoned fully to God. We return that which he has freely given to us, to Him.
God is love. It is therefore love himself that existed before the foundation of the world; a love that remains undistorted by the lenses of what he created and un-infected by the fallen and broken world. Love was not broken by the world, he chose to become broken, on the cross, for us to know that love to bring us hope.
Although many have written on the origins of life, few of us have truly grasped or live in the full knowledge that the very origin of life is the person of love. It is therefore fair to say that love is the source of life and all that He created was created from love. We, therefore, were created in the image of love. We were born to love (as the song goes) and Jesus, through both his humanity and his divinity, came to reveal that love to the world.
We hold the message of the cross of love, through which God reveals himself simply as love.