Philippians 1:9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment
How do we love? And how does our love abound? Let’s break it down.
God is love.
We start with the character and nature of God himself. He IS love. All love flows from and through him. Because God is a Trinity he is able to, and has been loving for all of eternity. The Father loves the Son and the Son Loves the Father. The Spirit loves the Father and the Father loves the Spirit. The Son loves the Spirit and the Spirit loves the Son. This love is perfectly pure and holy. The Trinity are all about each other and doing what is most glorifying for the other.
God loves us.
God created us because he loves. He didn’t need to create us, he wanted to create us because the Trinity wanted to love and glorify each other. By creating a humanity that could love and glorify God, the Father loves and glorifies the Son, the Son the Father, and so on. In creating us, the Trinity allows their love to overflow to us. We receive their great love for each other and are welcomed into their relationship. How? By faith in the life giving death and resurrection of the Son. God demonstrated his great love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). God loves the world so much that he gave his son (John 3:16). Jesus said “a new commandment I give to you that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34). Our Savior has made the motivating force of our love his love for us.
We love God.
We love God because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). It is God’s great love for us that motivates our love for God. God in his grace, pours out his love upon us, even before we were saved. He pursued us in love and rescued us in love. We must behold this love, acknowledge this love, and receive this love by faith. When we do this our hearts are changed. When we see the kind of love this is, love that makes us children of God (1 John 3:1), we are constrained to love God. Not forced. It is an act of faith. Our love for God grows deeper the more we learn to trust his love and goodness at the cross and resurrection.
We love ourselves.
Love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 12:31). This second of the great commandments calls us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. The love of self seems to go against the godly nature of love. And admittedly this phrase can be pretty tricky. Here’s two thoughts: 1) We all by nature love ourselves. Paul in Ephesians tells us that nobody ever hated their own body (self). In fact, because of sin, we tend to be pretty self-centered don’t we? Even our self- loathing can be a form of self- love (looking out for the self). So the love of self is assumed. 2) God’s love for us has reordered how we love ourselves. The cross shows us how deeply flawed and yet how deeply loved we truly are. His love for me allows me to really truly know and understand myself, including all my sins and faults, and yet accept the Creator’s deep, deep love for me. So no more self- loathing. In fact, if we don’t have a love for self that is rooted in God’s love for us, and the honest self- evaluation that the gospel allows, we will not be able to love others. Why? Because we will still be constantly comparing and manipulating. Our love for others will be selfish- a way to get, rather than give. If I get all I need from the love of God so that I love myself because of his love for me, now I am free to love others without the need to have all my needs met by others.
We love others.
And so this is where we land. Christ-like love for others. Image bearing love for others. This is the overflow of the Trinity’s love for us. We can love as Christ loved. But even greater, we can love with the love of Christ. Paul said, “I love you with the affections of Christ” (Philippians 1:8). Because we are loved by God, we can love God. As this love grows in our hearts we are freed from self-centeredness and self-loathing (we love our self). Now we can love others.
How does this love abound more and more? Through more and more faith. Faithfully looking unto God and his work on the cross as the proof and display of His great love for us. Trusting in this love daily. Accepting that although you are deeply flawed, you are deeply loved, because that is what the Trinity IS- LOVE!