What is love? Part 2

The social networking hashtag #LoveIsLove is a symbol of the campaign for so-called “love equality,” and is used in statements such as “No matter what gender, race or age #LoveIsLove” and “Love sees no race, gender or age. #LoveIsLove. Deal with it.” But rather than offer us a definition by which we can measure and identify genuine love, statements such as these portray love as a malleable and ultimately meaningless concept which applies to any and every kind of relationship, so long as the individual chooses to call it love. The Bible, on the other hand, would suggest a slightly different hashtag, #GodIsLove. But even though this statement is objectively true (1 John 4:8), it still comes very short of a real definition of love, which the Scriptures reveal to be as complex and multifaceted as the #LoveIsLove hashtag is simplistic and pointless.

D. A. Carson, in his book entitled The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, identifies 5 different ways in which the Scriptures of the love of God:

  • The peculiar love of the Father for the Son, and of the Son for the Father – Carson notes that this intra-Trinitarian love distinguishes the God of the Bible from all other gods, and is a key component in God’s revelation of himself through the Son (John 5:16-30) and in the redemption of mankind (John 3:16-17). This aspect of God’s love runs contrary to the individualistic and self-centered concept of love embraced by much of our culture in that it is inherently other-oriented. It is worth noting that Jesus never demanded the Father’s acceptance or the freedom to express himself as an individual. In fact, just the opposite is true. Jesus declared that he could do nothing of himself, and that he only sought to do the Father’s will. For his part, the Father sent the Son and gave him work to do, fully expecting the Son’s obedience and submission. The Father’s love for the Son is reflected in the commands he has given, and the Son’s love for the Father is demonstrated in his obedience to those commands (John 15:10).

  • God’s providential love over all that he has made – Carson admits that this aspect of God’s love is usually not called love in the Bible, but can be clearly identified as such without using the term. God created everything, and then, before the corruption of sin entered in, he called his entire creation “very good” (Gen. 1:31). All of creation is the product of a loving God, who with providential care supplies every need of even the smallest creatures (Matt. 6:26) and plants (v.30). And this facet of love flies in the face of our consumer-driven culture by directing attention away from our felt needs and toward the One who so lovingly meets those needs. We are not set free from worry by devaluing temporal things but by trusting in the loving God who knows that we “need all these things” (Matt. 6:32).

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