germandreambaby asked a question:
Do you think that the love God has for us and for the entire creation is somehow different than what we understand as love? I mean, does the love of God have (entirely) different characteristics than human love? thanks for answering!
Hey dear friend, the short answer is: sort of yes and sort of no.
The love of the Christian God is so unique in that it purports no agenda, has no need for reciprocation, and has the motive of no-motive. God’s love exists simply because it does, for no reason except that He loves. There is no transaction, no equal exchange, no real economy. It is like a waterfall with no source and no ending, a constant wave after wave.
At the same time, God is unflinching when it comes to justice as being a part of love. Love is not merely sentimental, but also incorporates the safety and health of the other. That means telling the truth and keeping others accountable and gently persuading others away from the cliff of self-destruction. C.S. Lewis said it best: “Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.” In fact, Lewis said this within the context of WWII, in the midst of atrocities, referring to how we can love the “enemy.”
Many of us will lean too much to one side or the other. In other words, every culture will have an incomplete misinformed idea of “love” because it’s either too sentimental or too safe. We go for sappy careless love and end up enabling and spoiling. We go for “tough love” and end up controlling and wounding. We get our boundaries wrong all the time, either too much or too little. We might pour out until we’re irresponsibly draining ourselves, or we might speak so much truth that we come off shrill and unapproachable. Sometimes we hold on too long or we let go too early. Such a perfectly balanced love is impossible for us, and we will never get it completely right.
Only God can persistently and consistently do both. He’s an endless well so He never has a shortage of supply. And His holiness is so attractive and beautiful that even His hardest truth is healing. God can pierce the heart in our most naked vulnerability until we are both rebuked and restored. Human love must work; God’s love just works.
The one similarity that our love can have with divine love is that love exists for who the person is and not what they can do for you. This idea in the Bible is called a covenant. It’s a “just-because-love” that keeps no score and has no prerequisites. There’s no list of pros and cons. It does not “marry for the money,” but simply for who you are.
I have always believed that the greatest sin is opportunism. All of Scripture and nearly every worldview is against using, abusing, manipulating, and deception. This is where God’s love can inform us the most. We can lean into people who are nothing like us, who can give us nothing back, who are inconvenient and even intolerable, but with wisdom and wise choices, we can pour out to the least likely — since we, too, were the least likely for God’s love towards us.
You can see this as far back as Deuteronomy 7, which says:
7 The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
We only see a few similar types of love like that on the earth.
Parents’ love for their children are nearly instant the second the child is born; there’s no “dating” or “chemistry” required to get there.
Love can be seen in adoption. Love is eventually seen when a child takes care of their parents in old age, long after the parents have become an exhausting burden. Love can be seen when parents take on their prodigal kids again and again. Love can be seen when a friend holds another friend accountable, regardless of how uncomfortable or tense it will become.
And love is there, when Jesus walked the earth, and he found even people like me you. We can do likewise with the person right in front of us, without counting them against them.