Article courtesy of HomeLife magazine.
February is the month of love.
Many will write about and pine for true love. Last year, Americans spent nearly $4 billion on flowers, stuffed animals, cards and candy. If measured in dollars, that's a lotta love.
But might I suggest we step away from those items for a few minutes to truly think about love.
Our View of Love
To mere earthlings, love is manifold and varicolored. Love is an endless arrangement of emotion, passion and affection, entwined with pain and loss. Beyond expressing love for others, we may love a lot of things: autumn, babies, puppies, kittens, chocolate, traveling, warm summer days, the first snow, a day on the beach or the morning's first cup of coffee. But loving objects and experiences is not in the same realm as loving one another, much less loving God.
Love has been portrayed as wonderful or disastrous, passionate or indifferent. Love is an endless well for authors and songwriters. Some enjoy and think we understand love to a degree. For others, love is fraught with misunderstanding and unrealistic expectations.
While mankind looks for love, turning to God's love offers great help.
The Love of God
Translating the different Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek words used for love in the Bible, the Holman Christian Standard Bible renders the word "love" 766 times. If we looked at broader expressions of God's love toward man (care, mercy, compassion, etc.), it would be nearly impossible to count.
Perhaps the most important Old Testament term describing God's love is khesed. It is always translated "loving kindness" in the NASB, "everlasting love" in the ESV, while the HCSB uses two main English words: "kindness" (42 times) and "faithful love" (136 times).
A summary of the way _khesed—_kindness and faithful love—are used reveals a broad spectrum of meanings: deeds of devotion, faithfulness, favor, goodness, kindness, loyalty, mercy and unchangeableness. Many commentators will distill the word group to mean loyal love, but that seems to fall short of a full expression.
"We say God loves us, but do we reflect on the immeasurable nature of His love: that He chose us before the foundation of the world, sent Christ to die for us, indwells us with His Spirit, is merciful, compassionate and forgives us again, and again?"
Defining God's Love
While any single definition is inadequate, let me suggest: God loves to be loyal to His promises and His covenant people. We may not tend to think of loyalty as love—due to our language deficit—but think of God the Father, who is always loyal to keep His promises.
It is God's character.
It's who He is: He is always true, always faithful, and always loyal to His word, and His people. We often say we believe in the promises of God, but do we connect this to His nature as a loving God and Father? We say God loves us, but do we reflect on the immeasurable nature of His love: that He chose us before the foundation of the world, sent Christ to die for us, indwells us with His Spirit, is merciful, compassionate and forgives us again, and again? God never tires of our prayers, or gets mad, or is disappointed and abandons us.
What Does This Mean for You?
The psalmists paint vivid portraits of God's faithful love. I would encourage you to take out your Bible, study Psalm 103, and note all the ways that David explains and expresses the ways God loves His people. Beyond the specific times khesed — kindness and faithful love — is used, note the broader themes of His love. He forgives, heals, redeems, crowns, satisfies and has compassion.
No matter what you feel regarding human love, I encourage you to re-think and re-frame your view of God's love for you. Spouses, parents, siblings, children and close friends may fail us. Rather than become jaded or withdrawn, be mindful that we, too, fail in our love toward others.
But beyond the broken hearts and broken relationships, the perfect God loves you perfectly. Your God and Father is indeed the greatest Lover of your soul.