God is more than love.
He is justice. He is truth. He immutable, holy, righteous, sovereign, merciful, triune and more.
The characteristic people like most is love, but how is love defined?
Mankind has tried to define it in many ways and its many definitions either have flawed components/additions or are pale shadows of the love of God. God’s love is willful and what some would call “mindful love”. It is what is described in 1 Corinthians 13.
As such, if the form of love someone expresses or has does not conform or fall under the sort of love God displays, the kind we are to emulate as image-bearers of God, then that love is at least incomplete or worse.
My words may sound strong to you but as one who believes and follows Christ, there can be no other standard for love than that which is found in God.
John 14:6 shows Jesus, the Son of God and member of the Triune God, as saying “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This is strong language indeed and is clear that there is no other way to God and no other way to become more like Him, including in love, than to come to Christ who is God.
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” NIV Luke 14:26-27
To “bear our cross” as His disciples means to value Christ above all else, even family. Many can find this idea shocking. Let me unpack it.
Christ is not saying that we should not care for our family or our own lives. However, he is saying that we should not put them in the same place as Him. Christ should be first, everything (and everyone) comes second. This may sound cold but it is only through closely following Christ that we can learn to be the people we ought to be. This includes loving rightly.
With the above in mind, if we do not follow Christ and His example first and foremost, everything else suffers, including our love and care for family and self. Matthew 6:33 points to what is also a popular Christian song: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
We cannot truly know and act out love without first following His example and the kingdom He represents. This goes for more than simply love. Even the desires of our hearts are met by first seeking after Christ. Through walking this path, we come to know the will of God for us and grow closer to Him and even like Him. As this happens, what we want in life may change as we come more in line with the mind of Christ. In this we truly “bear our cross”, to be more like Him in everything.