Valentine’s Day, or as I like to call it, “Single’s Awareness Day” is soon upon us. Red and pink deck the halls of retail stores everywhere. Florists work late into the night creating the perfect flower arrangement for that special someone. The smell of chocolate wafts through our homes. It’s the day set aside to celebrate love… our form of love.
What we as humans believe about love becomes quite evident by how we celebrate Valentine’s Day. We get gifts for our lovers out of obligation; we buy cards for our crushes hoping the feeling is returned; we flirt with romance hoping to give depth to our marriages. This is how the world loves: I give to you and you give to me.
Two way love.
We see this in Scripture even simply in the language that is used. In the Hebrew (Old Covenant) there are 7 words that mean love, 3 are used most often in the Bible.
- RAYA: Friendship Raya love is about your friend, your everyday companion, and, in return, you know that you are loved just the same. This can be deep friendship or it can lead to AHAVA.
- AHAVA: Commitment Ahava is about a ferocious love. The “I’m not going anywhere” kind of love. An “I know that I’ll screw up and you’ll still be there for me” kind of love. The Bible describes Ahava love as “long suffering”. Ahava is also a deep human love for God.
- DOD: Intimacy Dod is intimate pleasure. The word literally means “to rock, to cuddle, to hold close.” This is about physical intimacy, sexual connection, or as my friend Kari likes to say, “getting’ your groove on!”
All three of these words for “love” require reciprocation, they reflect a shadow of how God loves us but still fail to show the clarity of how limitless His love for us is. These words strain to explain a love that we just can’t quite fathom the vastness of, and they still make love out to be two way.
When we think about God and how He loves, so often this is what we think. We use our humanity to try and understand God: I give to Him and He gives to me. We think He needs something from us before He can love us. We bring Him withered flowers and say, “Here, please love me?”
Before Christ, we had no comprehension of one way love; we didn’t even have a word for it! Jesus comes into the picture and completely turns our understanding of what love is upside down. While we were still sinners He offered us righteousness. While we crucified Him, He forgave us. While we spit in His face He embraced us. Then He says, “This is the way I love.”
In the Greek (New Covenant) the word that is used for this love is “Agape.” It means “unconditional, no-strings-attached, and without reservations love.” This is the kind of love that follows Christ
God needs nothing from us. His love is not limited by us. He is the giver, we are the receivers, and the only way He loves is 100% one way.
Because God is complete, full, lacking nothing that means that no amount of good (or bad) can affect who He is. The very creation of man was birthed in God’s desire to pour out his limitless love. Then we screwed that up by trying to do something to gain more from Him, not because He demanded it but because Satan did. We weave in and out of a world that is founded on that belief, the belief that one way love just isn’t possible.
That’s the beauty of God, really, that He is so wildly different than this world. That He doesn’t play by our rules. Even now in this moment when we’re:
While we live contrary to everything that He is; He loves us. He embraces us. We argue that we are undeserving (because we are) and He says, “My perfect child, you are mine, I love you, you are enough.”
The most intimate desire of God’s heart is this: That we would know how loved we are by Him and then show others that kind of love. Not because He needs it, but because we do. We need to be free from our worth being dependent on whether or not others love us back. We need to be able to relate to others without fear of rejection. We need others to be able to relate to us without worry or doubt about our intentions.
So then, the call is this, stop trying to love God enough and enjoy being loved by Him. Take in the waterfall of intimate, undeserved, limitless, unstoppable love of Christ. Let him wrap you up in an embrace, lay your head on His chest and listen to His heart beat to the rhythms of His delight in you. Rest in His pleasure, get caught up in his glory, and let who He is become one with who you are. Let Him complete you.
Then throw a party! Go love the broken. Go give to those who only take from you. Offer forgiveness to your attackers. Give grace to the coworker who does nothing but create drama for you. Pour love on your spouse that nags you or undervalues you. Serve your parents even when they don’t tell you thank you. Point this world of shattered people to the God who needs nothing from them and gives them everything. Do it not because God needs it, but because we do.
*Shout out to Brad Hays for help with the Hebrew!