If human beings are perceived as potentials rather than problems, as possessing strengths instead of weaknesses, as unlimited rather than dull and unresponsive, then they thrive and grow to their capabilities.
If you were challenged to identify the single most dominant theme in the Bible—both Old and New Testaments—you would be hard-pressed to make a better choice than love. The Old Testament describes for us a loving God faithfully looking after His wayward people. King David proclaims the Lord’s faithfulness over and over in his Psalms. And then in the New Testament, Jesus teaches us about the love between the Father and the Son, exhorts His disciples to love one another as He has loved them, and demonstrates God’s love by dying for fallen mankind. The Apostle John exhorts believers time and again to love one another.
Most Christians have heard sermons teaching and preaching about the agape love of God: a love that is unmerited, unconditional, faithful, and long-suffering. Agape love is a sacrificial love that seeks the best for another: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
The month of February inevitably brings the topic of love to our minds, and it is a good thing to be reminded that we are invited into a personal relationship with the loving Creator and Lord of the universe and exhorted to love others as He loves us. And with this comes the wonderful irony of God-love: even as it is intrinsically self-sacrificing and other-serving, practicing agape love is the most selfish thing we can do: It is as good for us as it is for those we love!
In my counseling practice, I often remind clients of God’s economy: He does not endorse the good of one at the expense of another; rather, the Lord has ordered His creation as an expression and manifestation of His nature: desiring good for all, at all times. And so it is entirely consistent that Love Himself would create us to be blessed as we love. As science has begun to look at the links between spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical well-being, we have discovered that being “in love” boosts our immune systems; loving acts of kindness increase our “feel-good” hormones; spiritual connection with God and others provides a sense of connectedness and security as well as boosting our immune system. But above and beyond this, exercising our God-love muscles enables us to partake in the very nature of our Lord and participate in His eternal kingdom’s work.
To be sure, attempting to exercise agape love for self-serving reasons would miss the point and the benefits of exercising such love. But as we consider the reminder to love, may we also remember that our Lord calls us to love others because He loves us as much as He loves others.