What does -God Loves You- mean?

UnknownWe long to be loved and to love. Yet we love imperfectly, and often disorderedly. But there is one who loves perfectly–God–and widely. In fact, God loves the whole world, Jesus says in the oft-quoted John 3:16. But what does it mean? How does God love man?

Given the great gulf between the Creator and creature, we can only apprehend, according to C. S. Lewis, God’s love of man through various analogies. From the various types of love known among creatures, we can formulate a partial picture of God’s love for us.

Lewis explores four types of creaturely love in his chapter on “Divine Goodness” in his book The Problem of Pain:

color-241301_1501. Artist and the artifact. The first and lowest type of love is that which an artist feels for an artifact. I’m not much of an artist, but I do have a kind of affection for a charcoal drawing I made while in third grade at the height of my artistic powers. I am sure Rembrandt, Chagall, or Michelangelo did, however, grow to love that which they so painstakingly made. As sub-creators (Tolkien’s term), we were made to love the object of our creation. As a picture of divine love, God is the potter, we are the clay (Jeremiah 18); God is the builder, we are the living stones (1 Peter 2:5). In a very real sense, we are a divine work of art (Ephesians 2:10). As Lewis states, “we are something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character.”[1] This is the “intolerable compliment”[2] God pays man. Over a sketch, an artist may not take much trouble, but over the great picture of his life—Bosch’s The Garden of Delights, Michelangelo’s Universal Judgment, Monet’s Nimphee—he will take endless trouble. So too, God takes endless trouble as He lovingly shapes us for our glorious destiny.

away-352280_1502. Man and his animals. Another kind of love is the love of a man for a beast. As a parent, I’ve fought the “Dad, can we please get a dog?” question off for years. Why does everyone want a dog? Their messy, trouble, and costly. But, I finally broke down a little over a year ago—and have watched as my children (I’ll not go so far as to count myself in this) have grown to love our dog.[3] Scripture symbolizes the relation between God and man along these lines: “we are his people, the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100:3). The strength of this analogy, according to Lewis, “lies in the fact that the association of (say) man and dog is primarily for the man’s sake: he tames the dog primarily that he may love it, not that it may love him, and that it may serve him, not that he may serve it.”[4]

fog-79456_1503. A father and his son. Love between a father and son, in this symbol, “means essentially authoritative love on the one side, and obedient love on the other.”[5] We see this kind of love in Scripture between Jesus and the Father when he prays in the garden “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

 

couple-309494_1504. Man’s love for a women. Lewis thinks this is the most useful analogy to help us understand divine love. It is one freely used in Scripture: Israel is often described as a false wife and God as a faithful husband; the Church is described as the bride of Christ, and so on. “The truth which this analogy serves to emphasise is that Love, in its own nature, demands the perfecting of the beloved.”[6] It would not be love, if I didn’t care about my wife’s wellbeing, or her character, or her happiness. Indifference is not love.

 

 

Lewis’s discussion of divine love exposes the shallow version of love employed and pursued by many today as a sham. Real love is not mere kindness that tolerates anything in the object loved. No, real love is tough as nails.

“To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labour to make us loveable.”[7]

Amen. This is the kind of love that lays down his life for another. This is divine love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2001), 34.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Actually, we had to “lend” Anabell to grandma since we thought we were moving overseas (we ended up moving to Texas instead, a kind of country itself) and now we would not tear the two apart. So, we are currently dogless again, but my family is working on me again too.

[4] Ibid., 35.

[5] Ibid., 37.

[6] Ibid., 38.

[7] Ibid., 41.

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