So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11 MSG)
What does it take for love to flourish? It takes love. But where does love come from? To be more specific, where is the initial source of love that starts the whole process of love flowing from one person to another? That initial source can only be God.
But does God really love? This is the defining question of humanity’s quest for meaning, purpose and understanding in this world. How does one answer such a question? What evidence does one allow and what criteria are used for measuring that evidence?
Natural knowledge tells us that something amazing must have happened to generate all the wondrous complexity and beauty that we see in nature around us. And human beings tend to root their reason for being in the stories or theories that they believe explain how all we see came to be. But when the revealed knowledge of the Bible is disallowed as evidence, humans invariably end up in one of two camps. Either they worship an indifferent god who demands to be pleased, or they believe that mechanistic, material forces are the foundation of all existence and action, and that makes love impossible.
As followers of Jesus, we are a strange people, for we accept as valid evidence an ancient book written by various authors over a span of 1500 years. The Bible is unique when compared to all other ancient manuscripts for it stands up, in an exemplary manner, to the scientific scrutiny of textual criticism. But the greatest feature of the Bible is the story it contains of a God who stands apart from all other gods, for this God is love. The God of the Bible is a three-in-one God in whom perfect, self-giving, sacrificial love has always existed and will always exist. God created the world, but not so more beings could love Him, for He has no need for our love. God created the world so that there could be more love.
One often overlooked characteristic of love is that you make yourself vulnerable to having your heart broken when you love. Loving someone else includes the possibility that they could reject you and there would be nothing that you could do about it. It’s the price one pays to love.
To make it possible for love to abound, God set things up in such a way that we could reject Him, and all of us have done that in one way or another. Speaking figuratively, we could say that all of us have broken God’s heart. But God’s love is not dependent on us accepting Him. Because He loves us, God the Father sent His Son, Jesus, to save us from our hardheartedness, turn us around and bring us back to the source of all love: God.
As we rest in God’s love, He works in us to help us live a lover’s life… and love will flourish.
Dear Jesus, shine the light of your love on the hard, wayward parts of my heart. Fill me with your love so that I may better love You and others. Amen.
Still, why did God say, Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated, even before they were born?
I believe that God is using hyperbole in that passage (Malachi 1:2-3) to make the point that He chose Jacob, even though he was a much less likely choice from a human perspective, over Esau to carry on the lineage of the promised Messiah who would save the world.