The Gift of Love

In keeping with the “love month”, here is the first in a series on love.

The greatest joys and deepest heartaches come from our relationships.

As C. S. Lewis said,
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

Natural love can only take us so far before we find ourselves wanting to quit or lock our hearts away and throw away the key. Love involves risk because it involves another human being. But there is no risk with God. In the Bible we find the statement that “God is love” (1 John 4:8), which draws us to seek out the true meaning of the breadth and depth of that love. The word “love” has been weakened through overuse in trivial contexts such as having an affinity for a certain thing or in the carnal sense when someone really means “lust”. Let’s face it, the word “love” has been watered down like bad coffee that is no longer potent enough to wake you up in the morning.

The powerful, full-orbed love of God, agape, is best described in 1 Corinthians 13 and best demonstrated in Romans 5:8 and elsewhere when He showed His great love for us through Christ’s death on the cross to save us while we were still sinners. In 1 Corinthian 13:4-8, love is described in the following way: “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” In his book The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis differentiates between divine “gift” love or agape and “need” love which includes the three other Greek words for love: phileo (friendship), storge (affection) and eros (sexual or romantic love). We have relational needs that are undeniably met through all four loves as God intended, but natural or human love cannot meet our needs on the deepest level. Our hearts seek for a perfect love and can only be satisfied fully when we receive the perfect love of God through knowing and responding to Him because God created us in His image, to thrive in relationship with Himself.

We must receive the gift of God’s love, which transforms and empowers us to love regardless of the response of another and to have health in our souls when we lack any of the natural forms of love. We are created to worship, so we will either worship God or something else. Whatever thrills you or fills you can, to the same degree, feel like it is going to kill you when it is no longer available. We can become addicted to what gives us pleasure and when that person or thing is no longer available, emptiness can be the result unless we are drawing life from God, who is constant in love. On one level, life is a series of longing, fulfillment and letting go. This teaches us to go to God where we can live on a higher level, having our needs met in Him. Sometimes our attempts to find fulfillment any other way are thwarted so we are left in the position of needing to respond to God.

In the natural sense, the bottom line in why we go after certain things comes down to a basic question of need: What do I want? Or what do I believe I need? There is a vivid scene from the film “Merlin” in which Merlin finds the woman he loves, but they are both advanced in years. They look at one another with longing in their eyes, with the flickering light of shared memories, but their bodies are old. He summons his last powers to turn back the clock for both of them and they are temporarily restored to youth and vigor. Then he smiles at her, takes her hand and leads her into a tent. The scene is one of restoration, beauty, love and anticipation. I describe that scene because something that mankind always passionately yearns for and needs is eternal love and life. The cry of the heart is that emptiness, loneliness, longing and death be now and forever swallowed up in completeness, love and life where no power of hell can penetrate. Is it not? The great news is that God does this. Yes, He starts the process now and brings it to fruition in eternity. We thirst because there is such a thing that quenches our thirst: water. We desire eternal love and life because God intends to fulfill that desire.

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