Love is all around us: it’s on our McDonald’s cups (“I’m Lovin’ It”); it’s in our Disney movies (Frozen’s “Love Is an Open Door”); it’s on our t-shirts (“I ‘Heart’ NY”); it’s even in the heart-shaped latte art the barista pours atop our morning coffee. And, in this season of love centered around Valentine’s Day, there’s ample opportunity for us to express our love via teddy bears, assorted chocolates, roses, or a well-worded Hallmark card. But American pop culture isn’t the only one with something to say on the matter. Love is at the heart of the entire Christian story, and it enters the story from the very beginning.
At the dawn of creation, in an incredible outpouring of God’s unlimited love, lands and seas, birds and fish, humans and relationships and life become things when they were once no thing at all. Every good thing in God’s creation is a physical manifestation of God’s love: food is God’s love made delicious; puppies are God’s love made cute and cuddly; your friends are God’s love made joyful; and you are God’s love made you! Each created thing has its own form and purpose, but all of it originates in the creative, life-giving love of God.
It would be enough if such a beautiful story ended here. But, just when we thought God’s goodness couldn’t manifest itself any more wonderfully, God’s love takes the form of Jesus and enters the world to be with us as one of us! 1 John 4 puts it this way: “Dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God… This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him… If God loved us this way, we also ought to love each other” (1 John 4:7-11, excerpts).
So, love looks like Jesus. And, having received the gift of God’s love, we must love God and one another in return (see Matthew 22:36-40). Pretty straightforward, right? Love God; love others; love yourself. But love can be complicated, messy. Healthy love requires patience, kindness, and—above all—intentionality (see 1 Corinthians 13:4-7). And yet, as hard as this work can be, one of life’s deepest joys is to engage in the lifelong pursuit of getting to know someone, not superficially but truly. Put poetically, “to love another person is to see the face of God” (closing line of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables). God invites you to grow in knowledge and love and intimacy with God and one another, and if we accept, then we’ll begin to experience—at least in part—what eternity will be like.