The Bible is a love story of the greatest proportion. It is a story of intimate fellowship, followed by the greatest heartache and rejection, followed by the perfect, sacrificial act on His behalf to restore that fellowship, followed by our receiving that restorative life and intimate union by the Holy Spirit. St. Irenaeus of Lyon, one of the earliest theologians, stated: “It is not possible to live apart from life, and the means of life is found in fellowship with God; but fellowship with God is to know God, and to enjoy His goodness.” He described the work of God in relational terms as God the Father continually drawing us to Himself through “His hands”, the Word and the Spirit. And as we respond by stretching our hearts out to Him in love, trust and worship, we draw closer to each other in this mutual “embrace”, growing continually in our relationship with God. In light of mankind’s Fall and God’s saving work on our behalf, this image of God’s embrace is especially powerful.
Imagine standing outside of a warm house on a cold winter’s night watching a family inside enjoying an evening together. There is light and love in the home, but you are on the outside, alone and shivering in the cold, gazing through the window. Some people feel that way their entire lives. But God calls us to come inside and stay, adopting us into His family. His invitation is open, free, and much deeper and fuller than any natural, earthly example. We cannot merely look to Christ as one observing from a distance to know His love, we must be “in Christ” in a personal relationship like Paul said in Romans 8:39 “the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” When we place our complete trust in Him, surrendering our feeble attempts to find life apart from Him, we begin living life on an entirely different level as a new creation in Christ. Here we find eternal love and life, complete and undiminished. Only then can we love in the way that Jesus commanded us: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Here are a few ways that we can love others in the way that He first loved us. The closest example God gives us is within marriage. Marital love is ideally agape in its main expression, as in Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it.” In order to restore us to perfect fellowship with God, death and suffering were required. Redemption cost more than creation. In principle, when you are facing a relationship that has been marked by pain or brokenness, you are making a choice to love out of commitment, not out of emotions. This takes a supernatural kind of love that you receive from God. During times like this when you experience pain in a marriage relationship, parent/child relationship or friendship, you may ask yourself: Will I ever feel again? But death is followed by resurrection life. It is possible for a difficult or broken relationship to be restored to a place of health and emotion again, and even if it is not, for the person who is walking with God to experience wholeness and demonstrate love and forgiveness.
Receiving God’s gift of love is intrinsically bound together with receiving His forgiveness and walking in His ways. The person who is forgiven much, loves much and we are living in a world that is in dire need of powerful, real expressions of the love of God through our lives. Some people unnecessarily experience pain over and over again in relationships because they are seeking answers from people that they should be getting from God. You cannot find answers to the deep questions of your soul or derive meaning in life from people. These are questions such as: Am I worth it? Am I loveable? Am I beautiful? Am I valuable? You have to take these questions to God or you will try to draw life from the wrong source and hurt your relationships. However, when you have a deep, abiding relationship with God and find your value and purpose in Him, you can give to others throughout your life.