Back in July 2011 I wrote the following in my personal journal:
“I glimpsed my true calling… All other works of service, ministry, vocation- all else flows from this stream: TO LOVE GOD and TO BE LOVED BY GOD! THIS is my core, my center, my firm foundation, the place from which I long to live. Not merely exist, but to [really, truly] live.”
Love is our true calling. All else is to be subservient to this; it’s not the other way around. When we get this turned around, when callings and service and knowledge, or anything else becomes the master of love, instead of love being the master, then all sorts of things get ‘out of whack.’
For the believer, the follower of Christ Jesus, love is the point: not rules or laws or moral codes, not righteous deeds or acts of service, not right causes or social justice, not ministry or calling (etc., etc….)1 Please hear what I’m really trying to say: all of these things are good and right and necessary, but they must be motivated by, birthed out of a genuine love, from God, of God, and for God. As motivations in and of themselves, these other things can become entirely different animals… dangerous animals, because they actually become subservient to lesser and more dangerous motivators (ie.: guilt, fear, pride, anger). And one of the major dangers is that love becomes ‘defined’ by these other motivators instead of love defining the motives.
So, how do we know what love is? If you’ve been in Christian circles for any length of time then you’ll know that 1 Corinthians 13, sometimes known as the Love Chapter, is usually the first thing that comes to mind in response to this inquiry. But the answer is more basic than this. To know what love is we must look to God Himself.
“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 him.” (1 John 4:16)
To know what love is we must first look to God. He is the definition, the exemplification, the manifestation, of what it is to love and to be loved.2 Be careful, though, not to get this truth turned around as well: “to know what God is, look at love.” The problem with this, again, is that different sources will define love in different ways. “God is love”, not “love is God.”3
So to know what love is we look to God. But how do we know what God is like? Simply put, we look to His express image as revealed to us in the Person of Jesus Christ.
Colossians 1:15 – He is the Image of the Invisible God.
John 10:30 – “I and the Father are One.”
John 14:9 – (Jesus) “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father…”
Jesus both taught and demonstrated what God is like, what love looks like. In a sense, Jesus is ‘the lens’ we look through to see God, to see love.4 I believe that at the core of all that God has shown us in His Word, both Old and New Testaments, love is defined by God Himself, and as demonstrated by God the Son, Jesus Christ.5
This understanding has radically changed the way I read the Scriptures; more accurately, it has allowed me to see things that were there all along that I never saw before. I no longer view Father God as an angry despot, ruling with unquestioned might and authority (which, by the way, He does possess), ready to pounce on any and all offenders. Nor do I see Jesus as “the meek and mild little lamb” who alone can pacify this angry deity with His sacrificial offering. I see the one God, Who, motivated by love that I cannot possibly comprehend, launched the most audacious, remarkable, unthinkable rescue plan known to mankind! The giving of Himself to redeem those Whom He loves!
Now, please, don’t get me wrong; I don’t completely understand everything I’ve read in the Bible. I don’t have it all nice and neatly figured out. But I DO know that God is “working overtime” to get me to understand what it means to be loved and to love, and He’s doing this by getting me to understand and embrace Him. All of Him: His commandments and decrees and judgments, as well as all of His amazing promises. He wants me to understand that EVERYTHING HE DOES IS MOTIVATED BY HIS REDEMPTIVE LOVE toward those who look to Him.
There is so much that could be said about this, but I don’t have the time or the smarts to cover it all. I just want to encourage you, to help you to understand that in all that you do, make the love of God your primary pursuit. I believe that, in that place, we will find purpose and meaning and fulfillment. Oh, I’ve not ‘arrived’ there, by any means; but I am, gratefully, on my way, being led in love by Him!
“TO LOVE GOD and TO BE LOVED BY GOD! This is my core, my center, my firm foundation, the place from which I long to live. Not merely exist, but to [really, truly] live.”6
(copyright 2013, Lemuel C. Dees)
1 Galatians 5:6
2 God the Father and God the Son love One Another and are loved by One Another within the love and fellowship of God the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14); it is the mystery of the Godhead, the Triune nature of God.
3 In fact, none of the attributes we associate with God (holiness, righteousness, justice, etc) define Him; we look to God, His Person and character, to know how they are defined.
4. The most profound demonstration of love God gave was the giving of Himself in death of the cross (John 3:16). In deed, all of the Old Testament looks forward to, and all of the New Testament refers back to, the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross, The greatest demonstration of love!
5 Just as a side note: the attributes of love as described in 1 Corinthians 13 can very well be referred to as the attributes of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
6 Along with these thoughts, I encourage you to check out my blog entry entitled “a prostitute, a desperate housewife, and love… .”