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God is Love

Accord­ing to the Chris­t­ian faith “the great­est virtue is love” (I Corinthi­ans 13:13) Love is the “ful­fill­ing of the law” of God. (Romans 13:10) For God Him­self is Love.

Beloved, let us love one anoth­er; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God.

He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.

In this the love of God was made man­i­fest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him.

In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the expi­a­tion for our sins.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one anoth­er. No man has ever seen God; if we love one anoth­er, God abides in us and His love is per­fect­ed in us.

By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has giv­en us of His own Spir­it.

And we have seen and tes­ti­fy that the Father has sent His Son as the Sav­ior of the World. Who­ev­er con­fess­es that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

In this is love per­fect­ed with us, that we may have con­fi­dence for the day of judg­ment, because as He is so are we in this world.

There is no fear in love, but per­fect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with pun­ish­ment, and he who fears is not per­fect­ed in love.

We love, because He first loved us. (I John 4:7–19)

In these inspired words of the beloved Apos­tle John, one sees that man’s com­mu­nion with God, his entire spir­i­tu­al life, is expressed in love. Where there is no love, God is absent and there is no spir­i­tu­al life. Where love is, God is, and all right­eous­ness.

Man’s love has its ori­gin in God. God’s love always comes first. Men are to love God and one anoth­er because God Him­self has loved first.

God’s love is shown in the cre­ation and sal­va­tion of the world in Christ and the Holy Spir­it. All things were made by, in and for Jesus Christ, the Word of God, and the “Son of His love.” (Colos­sians 1:13–17; John 1:1–3; Hebrews 1:2)

When the world became sin­ful and dead, “God so loved the world that He sent His only-begot­ten Son… not to con­demn the world, but to save the world.” (John 3:16, 12:47)

But God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sin­ners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) But when the good­ness and love of God our Sav­ior appeared, He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in right­eous­ness, but in virtue of His own mer­cy, by the wash­ing of regen­er­a­tion and renew­al in the Holy Spir­it which He poured out upon us rich­ly through Jesus Christ our Sav­ior so that we might be made right­eous by His grace and become heirs in hope of eter­nal life. (Titus 3:4–7)

God’s love for man and His world in Christ is giv­en in the Holy Spir­it. This love is the first and great­est “fruit of the Spir­it” (Gala­tians 5:22), “for God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spir­it which has been giv­en to us.” (Romans 5:5)

In the spir­i­tu­al tra­di­tion of the Church, the aim of life as the “acqui­si­tion of the Holy Spir­it” is expressed most per­fect­ly in love. (cf. Saint Macar­ius of Egypt, 4th c., Spir­i­tu­al Hom­i­lies; Saint Seraphim of Sarov, 19th c., Con­ver­sa­tion with N. Molovilov) Indeed, the Holy Spir­it Him­self is iden­ti­fied with God’s love by the saints, as wit­nessed in the writ­ings of Saint Sime­on the New The­olo­gian.

0 Holy Love, — i.e., the Holy Spir­it of God — he who knows you not has nev­er tast­ed the sweet­ness of your mer­cies which only liv­ing expe­ri­ence can give us. But he who has known you, or who has been known by you, can nev­er have even the small­est doubt. For you are the ful­fill­ment of the law, you who fills, burns, inflames, embraces my heart with a mea­sure­less love. You are the teacher of the prophets, the off­spring of the apos­tles, the strength of the mar­tyrs, the inspi­ra­tion of the fathers and mas­ters, the per­fect­ing of all the saints. Only you, O Love, pre­pare even me for the true ser­vice of God. (Saint Sime­on the New The­olo­gian, 11th c, Homi­ly 53)

Thus God who is Love enters into union with man through the Son of His love by the Spir­it of love. To live in this divine love is the spir­i­tu­al life.

The first def­i­n­i­tion of love as agape is love as the action of per­fect good­ness for the sake of the oth­er. This is the most basic mean­ing of love: to do every­thing pos­si­ble for the well-being of oth­ers. God Him­self has this love as the very con­tent of His being and life, for “God is agape.” It is with this love that spir­i­tu­al per- sons must love first of all.

The sec­ond def­i­n­i­tion of love as eros is love for the sake of union with the oth­er. Erot­ic love is no sin when it is free from sin­ful pas­sions. It can be the utter­ly pure desire for com­mu­nion with the oth­er, includ­ing God. All spir­i­tu­al writ­ers have insist­ed that such love should exist between God and man as the pat­tern for all erot­ic love in the world between hus­band and wife. (See Sex­u­al­i­ty, Mar­riage, and Fam­i­ly) Thus the mys­ti­cal writ­ers and spir­i­tu­al fathers have used the Old Testament’s Song of Songs as the poet­ic image of God’s love for man and man’s love for God. (Phi­lo the Jew, Gre­go­ry of Nys­sa, Bernard of Clair­vaux, John of the Cross, Richard Rolle in Eng­land, et al.) Indeed the prophets have used the image of erot­ic love in explain­ing the Lord’s rela­tion with Israel. (Isa­iah 54; Jere­mi­ah 2–3,31; Ezekiel 16; Hosea) And Saint Paul uses this image for Christ’s love of the Church. (Eph­esians 6) In the scrip­tures, the union of man with the Lord in the King­dom of God is pri­mar­i­ly revealed in the image of eros. (Matthew 22, Rev­e­la­tion 19–22)

…for the mar­riage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made her­self ready; it was grant­ed to her to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure — for the fine linen is the right­eous deeds of the saints. (Rev­e­la­tion 19:7–8)

Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” (Rev­e­la­tion 21:9)

The third type of love is friend­ship — phi­la. This also should exist between man and God. Man has no greater friend than God, and God Him­self wants to be man’s friend. Accord­ing to the scrip­tures, the very pur­pose of the com­ing of Christ was to dis­pel all enmi­ty between God and man, and to estab­lish the co-work­ing of Cre­ator and crea­ture in the fel­low­ship of friend­ship.

Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. (Exo­dus 33:11)

Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I com­mand you. No longer do I call you ser­vants (or slaves), for the ser­vant does not know what his mas­ter is doing. But I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father, I have made known to you. (John 15: 13–15)

So it is that love as good­ness, love as union, love as friend­ship are all to be found in God and man, between God and man, and between human beings. There is no form of true love which lays out­side the realm of the spir­i­tu­al life.