Love is one of the most beautiful and powerful emotions we experience. Growing up, I recall my British parents using this phrase, “Love will draw you further than gunpowder will shoot you.” They were referring to romantic love, the kind of head-over-heels love that spurs you to go to great lengths for the object of your affection.
Before my husband Ralph and I began dating, I recall a love-drawing incident that entailed me riding my narrow-tire, ten-speed bike several kilometers along a gravel road. The idea was to wash Ralph’s car and leave homemade muffins inside for him to later discover. Since his family lived in the country, this show of affection also meant I endure being devoured by deer flies during the washing process. Love certainly goes the extra mile!
True love, in its purest form, is rare. The Bible describes it this way: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
We see glimpses of pure love on Earth, but more often it is distorted. Sometimes jealousy parades itself as a counterfeit form of love, other times selfishness steals and squashes another’s fullness, or insecurity inhibits another’s freedom. Love isn’t authentic when looking out for self. Love isn’t real if there is no freedom or free will.
The purest love is God’s love for us. 1 John 4:8-10 says, “…God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” God’s sacrificial love checks all the boxes of the love passage in 1 Corinthians 13.
This Christmas, we celebrate that God sent his only son to save us. God loved us so much that he offered Jesus in our place so we could know his love and have eternal life. His is a searching, sacrificial love independent of us being beautiful, worthy, good, or loveable, but based only on his goodness, mercy, forgiveness, and love.
Though pure, perfect, and profound, his love does not force affection. We choose to accept God’s love, to receive it. His love offer is ever available, but he gives us the freedom to choose. God knows it’s not real love if there is no choice.
During this advent season, we can choose to receive Jesus—God come down. We can choose to accept his lavish, drawing-us-in type love that went to great lengths for the object of his affection—us. We can know a pure, true love the likes of which we may never have experienced this side of heaven.