Think Again: Love, the Supreme Expression
As Christians, we speak often of God’s love, yet the idea that God loves us can easily become merely a theoretical statement. I am convinced that even if this truth sinks in, the significance of it seems to wear off with time. We forget the immensity of the truth that God loves us just as we are, in the frailty and the struggle with which we live.
Understanding God’s love must more than inform the mind; it must stir the heart with emotion. That is the understanding that overflows in worship of God and love for others.
Years ago, J.H. Oldham wrote in his book Life Is Commitment, “There are some things in life, and they may be the most important things, that we cannot know by research or reflection, but only by committing ourselves. We must dare in order to know. Life is full of situations to which I can respond not with part of myself but only with commitment of my whole being.”
And committing ourselves, I would add, is the essential component of loving God, which in turn overflows in worship. What commitment costs determines what it brings. Only a commitment lived out understands what love means.
Love, even after generations of pondering, still remains one of the most powerful but elusive experiences. We talk about it, we sing about it, we make movies about it, but oftentimes it remains in the realm of the desired but inexperienced. We may write a book on the laws of love, but even there it seems to be so little expressed.
Love is greater than any law. The whole Law, given at first to Moses, came in about 613 precepts. These revealed the parameters in which God prescribed authentic worship as we love and serve Him. One cannot but be overwhelmed by the sheer weight of obligation. About half a century later David, in Psalm 15, takes these 613 and reduces them to about eleven. Two centuries later, Isaiah shrinks them to six. Micah takes those six and summarizes them into three. Jesus reduces them to two—and both have love at their core.
It is interesting to see how the apostle Paul, who well understood what faith meant and what the law meant, ended his majestic chapter in 1 Corinthians 13. The great expressions of the truly spiritual life, he said, are faith, hope, and love. But the greatest expression, he said—even greater than faith, the final precept that Habakkuk taught, even greater than the law that Moses taught—is love, which summarizes the gospel in the incarnation of our Lord. But let us never forget that Jesus fulfilled the law because its precepts were true. Jesus was faithful to the Father’s mission. But both law and faith were subsumed by the incredible expression of God’s love.
Paul’s entire treatment is to show how love expresses itself, not how love is enjoyed (see 1 Corinthians 13). That’s how love draws in both law and faith. You can observe the law without loving it. You can have faith in someone without loving them. But when faith and law are bound by the skin of love, they all find their fulfillment. That supreme expression is in the heart’s devotion to God.
Jesus also took that hunger of the heart and combined it with the demands of the Law. The greatest commandment, he said, is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and strength and soul and mind and your neighbors as yourselves. On this [precept],” he said, “hang all the Law and the Prophets” (see Matthew 22:37–40). Everything in the two Testaments that points to the moral also points to the supremacy of knowing God’s love, the key to unlocking life’s treasure.
Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength is worship at its core—and a powerful expression to our neighbors of God’s love for them. Love is the greatest expression because it reflects the greatest being and is the greatest call in our relationship to God and our fellow human being. Without it, we are reduced to mere law, and in that state, faith is lost as well.
Today in Corinth, carved in front of a small church are the words of 1 Corinthians 13. It sits at the bottom of a hill. At the top of the hill is the temple of Aphrodite. The contrast in the two loves tells us why the world is the way it is today.
May we hear his loving voice and find the splendor of his love.
This article appears in the 27.2 edition of our award-winning magazine, Just Thinking. Click the button below to download a PDF of this edition.
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