The Christian confession is that “God is Love” (1 John 4.8). Love is the defining characteristic of the triune God – he is not a God that exists alone, but is always three persons in a never ending relationships of giving and receiving of perfect love within the godhead. For this reason, love stands at the centre of what it means to be humans, created in his image: the love-defined and defining God. We know this experientially – when we share in a true expression of love, we feel most alive. Is it any wonder that the vast majority of human expression captured in culture has been concerned with love! To be human is to need to give and receive love. We were made for love.
And yet… not all that goes by the name of ‘love’ is truly love. We were made for the perfect love of God, a love that is also explicated in his justice and his holiness, a love that lays claim to us, a love that loves us into his image, a love that has a complex relationship with freedom. A love that allows us to be who we were created to be. This is the love that should inform our human conception of true love, and yet we are confused. What does it mean to truly love one another? Surely this looks different in different relationships. Love in a marriage must encompass sexual love, but in a friendship this is not the right ‘love’. Love for our children must look different from love for our colleagues and strangers. In each of these relationships ‘love’ also must encompass boundaries, discipline, differentiation, honesty, justice, truth.
God created us for love and for freedom, yet our misconstrued ideas about love so often lead us into bondage. What does it mean to ‘love’ the person making bad choices? What does it mean to ‘love’ those who deny God’s truth?
The issues get more complex: love is intimately connected to our gender and sexuality, and because love is central to being human, when we are hurt, damaged, disappointed, abused, in short – when life goes wrong – it is often these areas of gender, sexuality, relationship and ‘love’ that get impacted. For many of us, to truly know we are loved is as elusive as it is important. The result is we all find it hard to see clearly what real love is all about, what God’s perfect love means for us.
In this series we want to preach a Christian vision for relationships – we were made for love! What does that mean in different contexts? What is God’s perfect love, played out across the different topics we will examine? This will also provide a context for dealing with the contemporary challenges of our culture: a collapsing distinction between male and female and a move towards gender-fluid ideology, plus a culture of ‘casual sex’, pornography and the normalisation of non-heterosexual sexuality and the associated challenges. Together with the collapse of many family units, rampant fatherlessness, high divorce rates and massive levels of poor mental health, we face a culture that needs love but does not know what it is. We must know what it is to know God’s love and live for a love that is true, just, good and leads to freedom.