“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” John 4:16
Webster’s online dictionary lists a plethora of definitions for love but all revolve around the central concept of feeling a great affection for someone or something and to take great pleasure in that thing.
All forms of love are covered in this definition even when it is thrown around to simply describe our sexual attraction to someone or how we feel about chocolate ice cream. Nevertheless all these varying forms and functions of love involve at least two parties, the lover and the loved. But the superficial type of love we feel for ice cream we do not, for fairly obvious reasons, place on God. Rather, God’s love is the type of love in which personal sacrifice is key (John 3:16).
Jesus himself says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). If this thought of love is then to be applied to the description of God in John 4:16 where “God is love,” we are forced to ask some probing questions. How does the idea of a lover and the loved play into a scenario where God is before time and creation, before there is one to lay oneself down for? Take note that laying down your life does not necessarily mean death but rather a concept of giving of yourself, something that is a sacrifice to you (i.e. selflessness).
Could God only become love once he had created something to love? To answer yes to this question would seem to imply that the core essence and nature of God was transformed at one point into Love. But this verse does not say that God loved or is a lover but rather God IS Love and if you ARE something it is not simply a description of what you are like but the substance in which you exist. It is who you are at your very core! It also must be noted that God is outside of our temporal realm and thus is not constricted by our idea of time and space, therefore when scripture tells us that God IS, it is a statement that implies is, has been, and always will be.
How then can we describe a God of this breed before the creation of any creature or being to be loved? The answer is both simple and complex for as seen through scripture our God is a God of triune, three coexisting as one. Father, Son and Holy Spirt pouring out themselves wholly into the others. It is only through this concept we can see a God who IS Love. For it is by this agency we are able to see a God who is neither selfish nor self-centered but constantly giving into another. By pouring out His Spirit, God pours out His love. By Christ’s death on the cross He demonstrates that love in a way we can understand, and by the daily grace and mercies He gives to us He shows us that He is Love.
It is only through this type of love and understanding of it that we exist, and move and be who we are, and that we are able to believe in a God that is who He says He is and acts in the way He says He will act. It is so important that we look more closely at the trinity to understand not only its necessity and veracity but the gift we receive through it, since it is this notion of a triune God that is the lifeblood of the God that we worship, a God that IS love. Although it is unlikely that we will ever, on this earth, be able to understand fully the concept of three in one, we are able to glimpse in part its purpose and meaning for us, as created creatures.
This love that God has for us goes beyond our simple understanding of love and is at the core of Him; it is the fundamental nature of our Creator. When we are finally able to see God in this light, our view of who we are in Christ can be realized as the Beloved, and what a wonderful place that is to hold in the heart of our God.
Brittany Crawford is a senior at Andrews University who plans to graduate in May 2015 with degrees in Religion and General Studies with an emphasis in Social Sciences. She adores traveling and learning about new cultures and places.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6619