“All You Need is Love” the Beatles sang. At our core, at the very essence of our being, lies a deep desire to love and to be loved. God designed this desire for love, and contrary to what some may believe, it does not come from a lack of security or independence on our part. God made mankind in His image, and our desire for love is not a result of the fall but a part of our imaging God. From the beginning, God purposed love to be an essential part of His creation. How could it not be? God is love. John says, “Whoever does not love, does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8). He continues by saying, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” (1 John 4:16). If God is love, and we are created in His image, then surely, love will have a foundational aspect to our being.
If you have children, I’m hoping you love them. I would also guess that you hope that they love you. It would be odd to find parents who didn’t desire love from their child, and it is the same with God. God loves us, but He also desires love from us (Exodus 20:5-6). He loves those whom He created in His image. He does not wish that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). In fact, He expressed His love to us so greatly that “he did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32, John 3:16).
Let’s be clear: God doesn’t desire love as if He is love-hungry and must be satisfied. The overflowing eternal love of God resulted in the creation of loving beings who experience His love. This is not a defect in God. Jonathan Edwards said, “It is no argument of the emptiness or deficiency of a fountain, that it is inclined to overflow.” In other words, the fact that God created loving beings, or enjoys being loved, does not show a lack in Him, but demonstrates His abundant love. The desire we feel to love and be loved illuminates the very fabric of our being—a fabric that reflects God’s image. It is only in loving God that we experience life the way He intends, in freedom. That is why His commands are not burdensome but give us rest (1 John 5:3, Matthew 11:30). Unfortunately, the fall affects how we experience love.
Without a God-informed understanding of love, love becomes relative. Is love being struck by the arrow of a baby angel with wings? Definitely not. Is love a one-night stand and superficial sex? Many songwriters seem to think so. Is love living together before marriage? Our culture seems to think so. Is it loving to racially segregate people? Some churches thought so. Relative love can sometimes contain good, but often it is harmful at best or evil at worst. When it is good, it is an experience of God’s common grace to us. Everyone desires love. However, love’s defining pedestal—namely God—often remains absent. Therefore, love often runs awry.
Without defining love from the God who is love, people can truly look for love in all the wrong places. The devil takes what God intended for good and twists it. He deceives. He convinces many that love can be found outside of God and outside of His freedom. God’s freedom appears like slavery to the world, and slavery to sin appears like freedom and joy. Love also becomes relative. The devil tells us, “Did God really say love is…?” He tempts us to put ourselves in the place of God and define love. Love no longer is defined by God, but by how we want to be loved, and how we feel we should love. He uses many tactics to deceive us. Here are two:
- The destruction of sin is held up in Valentine’s Day wrapping, and many fall for the trick. They open the package but then become depressed, wandering from one thing to another, trying to find something that satisfies.
- While the above is one of the tricks that the Evil One loves to play. I think he is much craftier than that. Instead of leaving the person empty, he often sugar-coats his poison as alluring temptations or gifts. These fake loves and pleasures are sweet to the taste. We enjoy them, and if he can string us along just far enough and long enough, we can feel satisfied with this fake love
It may even be a “good” love that we are satisfied with. For instance, God gives us marriage to point to His love for us, but without that basis, even marital love can become deceptive. Many people find “satisfaction” in marital love without God. This is the sinister plot of the devil. While emptiness destroys some, fulfillment destroys others (Philippians 3:19). He knows which tactic to deploy.
Jesus redeems us, and in doing so, He also redeems love. In the least, He redeems our potential to truly experience God’s love. Paul tells us we were dead, without hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:1, 12). Paul describes this love stating, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). We were not lovely, yet Christ loved us. We were spiritually dead, yet Christ died for us to make us alive. We were God’s enemies, but Christ died for us to make us children of God (Galatians 3:26). We were deserving of God’s wrath separated from God and without hope, but God made a way.
Jesus is the Way the Truth and Life (John 14:6). He is the Good Shepherd who loves and cares for the sheep (John 10:11-14). We can now have joy in God’s love. In Christ, we love as God loves. We can truly love in marriage and across ethnicities. We can love co-workers, and we can even love our enemies. John Piper defines godly love toward others as, “doing whatever you have to do at whatever cost to yourself to help people have an all-satisfying passion for Jesus forever.”
Christ on the cross redeems our possibility to be loved truly and to love truly. Our love is rooted in God because He is love. With God’s help, we can put on our armor and discern between relative love and true love. Through Jesus, God restores us to loving relationship with Him and others. When God is love, True Love is what you need, and it is all you need.