The Beginning of Love

Few would ever argue that love is not important.  Though many of us have felt the sting of love gone wrong, only the most bitter of us ever renounces it altogether.  There is something in our very essence that longs for love—that yearns both to love and be loved.

Where does this longing for love come from?  Why do we all care so much about it?  Why is it that love does indeed seem to make the world go round?

The answer to this question will be the foundation of this series of posts on Love.  To answer it, we need to look back to the very beginning of things, back to Creation itself, for it is here that we first learn what love really is.

The Great Dance

All theology must begin with the Triune God, the paradoxical doctrine that forms the linchpin of all reality:  that God exists in three distinct Persons who share the same essence.  God is unity and diversity in perfect harmony, complete in Himself and lacking nothing.

Before this Triune God decided to create, no other matter or being existed.  There was simply Father, Son, and Holy Spirit existing in perfect self-giving love and community, each seeking to honor the other two—all without losing the profound unity of being.  When early theologians sought to explain this, they described the Triune Community as perichoretic, each Person simultaneously remaining distinct and yet also interpenetrating the other Persons.  Later in Christendom, the poets reached for a metaphor to express this doctrine and came up with The Great Dance.

Because the Trinity is always complete and lacking nothing, God felt no necessity to create.  He felt no lack or external constraint.  There was no cosmic gun to the head, nor was anything lacking in the perichoretic Community of the Trinity.

This means that God’s creative work was an act of perfectly free will on the part of the Creator.  There was no need for anything to be created, yet God brought everything into existence.  This powerful act was far more than a brute act of will.  It was not merely a naked fiat, but was had a definitive purpose.

Joining the Dance

What was God’s purpose for Creation?  If it wasn’t a pure act of power, what was it?

The story of Scripture indicates that the reason God made such an intricate but unnecessary world was simply because of His love.  God created in order to extend the scope and range of His Trinitarian love—to bring more dancers into the Great Dance.

In the days of Creation, each fiat–each proclamation of “let there be”–was the result of overflowing Trinitarian love.  Though complete and perfect, the Trinity expanded its community of love through fiats that brought unnecessary things into being—things like almonds, hippos, and poetry.

Now, let’s put together an essential point about Creation and love.  Because God created out of perfect freedom, everything He made is absolutely unnecessary—apart from God’s good pleasure, there is no greater reason for anything other than God to exist.  But precisely because of God’s pleasure manifested in love, everything that God made is given purpose and meaning.  And because God loves what He made and seeks to bring it into the Great Dance of Trinitarian community, everything has incalculable worth and importance—though it is unnecessary.

Learning the Steps

God’s act of creation was powerful, free, and motivated by love—but it was also costly.  In His act of Creation, God “went beyond himself.”  To some degree, He renounced isolation, solitude, independence.  In love God not only made the world and humans, but acted on His love by forming covenants with them—bonds of obligating love that would culminate in the absolute sacrifice of cavalryGod’s first fiat of Creation was also a commitment to His final sigh on the Cross.

So how should we respond to all of this theology?  How do we learn the step to the Dance of Trinitarian Love?

First of all, when we realize that all the beauty and goodness of this world are given with divine loving intent, we should be profoundly grateful.  Despite the ongoing injustice in the world, thanksgiving should still mark all our waking moments.

Secondly, our gratitude calls us to imitate the Creator’s love in all of our relationships.  This means that our love should be:

  1. Sacrificial—We have to be willing to give of ourselves for the beloved.  We must willingly sacrifice time, resources, energy—and hardest of all—our will and desires.
  2. Vulnerable—We must be willing to have all our love misunderstood.  Slanderous rejection should not end our love, but make us all the more faithful in it.  For while we were yet enemies of God, Christ died for us.
  3. Free—Our love must seek to move the beloved into the Great Dance of the Triune Creator.  This means we forfeit our own agendas for the beloved, and seek to help him/her move closer to Christlikeness.

How is it that our insignificance is the very thing that gives us so much worth?

[This post is part of the Love Well, Live Well series.]