What is Love? Or, what are you going to say to God? Or, what are you getting God for Valentine's Day? Or ...
When I was a child, one of my older sisters had cartoons on the wall of her room entitled, "Love is ..." They featured a simply-drawn cartoon couple portraying a cartoonist's definition of love.
"Love is ... turning his head." "Love is ... being woken with a kiss." With Valentine's Day looming, a lot of advertisers are wanting people to think that "Love is ... buying her a gift," or that "Love is ... taking her out for dinner." There's no question that these things and others can be a demonstration of love, but where can you find a really accurate definition of what love truly is?
In 1984, a pop song entitled "I Want To Know What Love Is" became a No. 1 hit.
Thankfully, you and I can know exactly what love is. The Bible defines love very simply.
1 John 4:8 says that "God is love."
Even amidst the ruined buildings and shattered lives in Haiti, images of the Holocaust and the funeral of yet another innocent child, in a world gone mad, "God is love."
And God provided compelling evidence of this long before Jesus came to this earth. Even before the creation of the world.
Some time in the long ago, God decided humanity would be created with freedom of choice. An incredible decision, because the freedom given to humankind would not be free. Freedom never is. God created Adam and Eve with the capacity to misuse the freedom granted them. And sure enough, before very long at all, they had eaten the fruit God had expressly forbidden them to consume, sparking a disastrous chain of events. Their disobedience was sin. Sin caused separation between them and God (Isaiah 59:2), which led to the introduction of all kinds of evil: death and genocide and earthquakes, and untold suffering.
Was God responsible for sin? Of course not. Adam and Eve had a choice, and they exercised it. And their choice to exercise their freedom the way they did led to God demonstrating - again - what love is really is. Not just that He sent Jesus to die, but that Jesus died for a world that almost entirely could not have cared less. Paul wrote, "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." In another place, Paul wrote that "love seeks not her own."
My expectation is that a lot of the "loving" done this Valentine's Day will be mingled with a serious dose of self-interest. "If I ... then maybe he or she ...." which would not be God's version of love.
When God loves, He loves unconditionally. Even the unlovely and the ungrateful. No strings attached. This is what makes the love of God so pure. You choose to ignore God's love? He loves you anyway. You dismiss God as a delusion? He loves you anyway. You refuse to go to church? As Paul wrote, nothing can "separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
God so loved the world that He gave. Not for His benefit, but for ours. Was God incapable of surviving future history with us? Hardly. If He had chosen to consign humanity to the trash heap of history, nobody could have blamed Him. David asked in the Psalms, "What is man, that thou art mindful of Him?" A profound question. God knew the plan of salvation was going to cost heaven big, yet He went through with it anyway, because God is love.
This coming week, people everywhere will be saying, "This is because you're so special." "This is for what you've done for me." Chocolates. Flowers. Dinner. Which is fine, of course. But what are you going to say to God? Because He is so special? After all He has done for you? I don't think God is hoping for flowers or dinner out. In Proverbs 23:26, God says, "Give me your heart." A gift like that would make God's day. And yours.
Love is ... God. Because God is love.
John Bradshaw is senior pastor of the Village Church, the Seventh-day Adventist Church at 12th and Larch in College Place. Contact him at email@example.com. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.