During our post-sermon discussion group, one of our church members asked me what my concept of God’s love is and where it comes from. That got me and others in the group thinking about love.
We identified that our concept of love is different based on relationships. For example, I love my husband differently than I love my children. This led to identifying different types of love in different relationships: love for parents, love for siblings, love for close friends, love for distant friends, love for ministry partners, love for mentors, love for colleagues, love for teachers, love for distant relatives, etc.
We also realized that our respective concepts of God’s love for us virtually paralleled our concept of who He is in our life/what our relationship is. For example, one person saw God primarily as a teacher, so he saw God’s love for him as like how a teacher loves a student.
I saw God primarily as a ministry partner and distant close friend — like the kind you once couldn’t live without, but who moved away 20 years ago and you haven’t been in the best contact. So I saw God’s love for me in those ways:
- He loves me as his “fellow laborer” who works hard with and for him.
- He loves me, thinks fondly of me every now and then, and looks forward with great anticipation to being reunited with me, just as I look forward to being reunited with Him.
But both of these concepts are wholly insufficient, and in their insufficiency make room for two lies that I am now working to purge from my heart:
- If I drop the ball as his ministry partner, He doesn’t love me as much. The more I drop the ball, the less He loves me.
- He isn’t with me now, leading me, loving me, fighting for me. Instead, we are separated by time, and like a tragic love story, I’m sojourning alone through the ups and downs of life, clinging to the day when I can be reunited with Him.
What I realized in all this is that God’s love for us embodies all concepts of love we can imagine, and then some. He is our lover, our friend, our brother, our creator, our savior, our father, our king, our defender, our teacher, our comforter, our server, our partner, the Spirit who is with us now, and the glory we will receive in eternity. Whenever we lose sight of that, we lose sight of the greatness and sufficiency of his love. After all, “God is love.” (1 Jn 4:7-8)
This also emphasizes to me how critical it is to praise God for who he is specifically and not just generically. For example, “Lord, I praise you for loving me. You are my lover, my friend, my brother, my companion, my king, my maker, my teacher, my helper, …” rather than just “Praise you, Lord. Praise you!” Hmm. Something for me to keep in mind.