Expansive Love

Thursday, I was at Edinburgh Airport in the International Arrivals section to pick up someone returning from their holiday.  I was sitting there, minding my own business, diligently doing my Sudoku, noting that this square doesn’t have a “2” in it, when suddenly the person next to me exploded out of his seat.

I looked up, surprised, and saw an older gentleman hurrying towards the arrivals.  He went down on one knee in front of a baby buggy that had just come out.  I watched as this joyous man, obviously a granddad, talked and smiled and caressed his baby grandson for more than two minutes, oblivious to the crowd around him.

Finally, the man got up, and embraced the baby’s mum — his daughter.  They were thrilled to be together.

This kind of scene plays out thousands of times a day in airports all over the world.  One of my friends says the arrivals section of an airport has to be the happiest place on earth.  There was nothing unusual about it — though that doesn’t diminish its beauty.

What caught my attention, though, was the mum.  Again, there was nothing unusual about her reaction.  She stood there, smiling with delight, as her father had this precious time with his grandson.  She had just walked off of a plane from some other country.  Who knows how long she had been gone?  And her father absolutely ignored her for over two minutes, and she didn’t care in the least.  In fact, those might have been her two happiest minutes of the day.  She loved her son, and to have her father love him, too, was a wonderful thing for her.

As I said, although this is a wonderful thing, it’s fairly normal.  When we truly love someone, we are delighted when others love them, too.  “Charity envieth not” (I Corinthians 13:4).  Love is not jealous when others love the ones we love — love WANTS others to truly love the ones we love.

We’re used to this, because it is common to mankind — it is part of the image of God in us.  Theologians often say that God made us because He wanted fellowship with us.  What is rarely emphasised is that He didn’t NEED fellowship with us.  The Father had fellowship with the Son and the Spirit, the Son with the Father and the Spirit, and the Spirit had fellowship with the Father and the Son.  This is the greatest love, the greatest fellowship, that there ever could be.

It is no accident that when God created man, He spoke in the plural for the first time, “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26).  The great Three-in-One, in loving eternal fellowship, created man to expand that fellowship.  The fellowship we can offer Him is pretty pathetic compared to what God enjoyed internally, but we see that in our human relationships, as well.  An infant can’t offer much love in return, either, but yet we delight in shared love for him.

God wanted expanded fellowship, because that’s the way true love works, and He loves truly.  He wanted to bring others into love with Himself (that’s the whole story of the Bible, see The Unity of Scripture), and into love with each other (that is Christ’s “new commandment,” John 13:34-35).  When we delight in shared love, as that mum did at the airport, we reflect the way God loves, and His image shines out in us.

Side note:  for those familiar with the recent controversies over T.D. Jakes, this highlights the most destructive aspect of the modalism heresy of Oneness Pentecostalism.  (For those unfamiliar with it, it is a denial that the Father, Son, and Spirit are really distinct, but I won’t elaborate further here.)  It undermines the very core aspect of God’s loving nature, and the truth that fellowship is eternally an essential part of who He is.  God’s nature of love and fellowship, His wonderful acts of restoring and spreading loving fellowship, is the core of the Gospel, the central truth of Scripture.

I’ve seen a lot of things written about modalism over the past year, but most of it misses this central truth — when you take away the fact that loving fellowship is an eternal part of the essence of our God, that it was in full bloom before man was ever created, you undermine the Gospel.  And anyone who claims it isn’t an important doctrinal error is either horribly misguided or a false teacher (or both).

When we love God, we’ll love others, because that’s the way real love works.  We’ll tell others of His love for them, because His love wants to draw others into that love.  We’ll delight in drawing others into our love circles, expanding them, because that’s the way our God is, and His love working in us will affect us that way, too.

God’s love is not exclusive, it is inclusive.  He expanded His eternal loving fellowship to include us, drawing us and others into His love circle.  When we live out His love, we’ll have that same desire, that love will be shared, and spread, and we will rejoice together in that expanding circle of love — even if it means we have to wait a couple of minutes while someone who loves us expresses their love for someone else first.  More than anything else, we’ll want to draw others into His circle of love with us.

Real love circles don’t contract.
They expand.

 

About Jon Gleason

Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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