As You Have Been Loved
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness”
The weight of love
Love is defined by heavy responsibilities. Not only does it ask you to love yourself, but it also calls you to do the same for those around you (Leviticus 19:18). If that were the only target, we would still miss the mark. Over and above that, however, God commands us to love him with the totality of our being (Deuteronomy 6:5). Every thought, word, and action should be guided by ardent passion to glorify the heavenly King.
Not only does love extend to self, neighbor, and God, but it also stipulates the manner in which it should be conducted. Saint Paul wrote that “love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). Though we strive to love like this, failure stalks our every step.
Loving well demands great strength. So often, however, bearing the weight of love is a crushing impossibility. Like Sisyphus pushing his stone up the mountain, the second we feel that we have loved adequately, the boulder comes rolling right back down. How can we, so shackled by weakness, hope to carry this burden?
Love’s true source
Loving well starts with a perspective shift. Where does love begin? Many view it as starting within their own heart and then flowing out to others, who in turn reciprocate this stream. While this model is true in itself, it still misses an essential element. Ultimately, we love “because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Even more than that, God himself is love (1 John 4:8). For our love to ever leave the runway it needs the wind of God’s affection.
Not only is God the fount of love, but his character also displays the face of that virtue.
Love is patient. This means that God has neither given up on you or abandoned you in your failures. Like the lost lamb, he will always leave the 99 to return you home.
Love keeps no record of being wronged. Each time that you act in self-love or hate, his merciful heart pushes away the memory. As Psalm 103:12 says, “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” The painful scars of your failures have been swallowed by the depths of his unfailing love.
Love never fails. The Father’s love for you is unbounded by time or circumstance. Your heart is firmly ensconced in the hands of the one who counts a thousand years as a second. If you are his child, his love will meet you on the prodigal’s path and bring you home with proud rejoicing. His unfailing love feasts over you and boldly proclaims you as a child of the Most High. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6).
As you have been loved
If you have failed in love, do not be afraid. If your mercies are not new every morning, don’t fret. This side of heaven, you will love imperfectly. Like the woman caught in adultery (John 8), our failures seem to always be on display. Christ, however, only allows the sinless to cast stones of condemnation. He alone is sinless, yet he chose to put down the rock of judgment; instead, he, in our place, bore the punishment for our failures (1 John 4:10). When your love doesn’t glorify God, the stones will cry out instead. They don’t shout your failures. They proclaim God’s mercy for you.
When you receive this good news through faith, it not only wipes clean the slate of your unlove, but it also gives you access to the riches of God’s kingdom. Therefore, the command to love is never the starting point or the requirement upon which the Father’s acceptance of you is predicated. Our love is a response to what we have seen in the Lord, a response that extends vertically to heaven and horizontally to neighbors. When you know that you have been forgiven, you are free to love without hesitation or fear. As you have been loved, so you may now love in return.