When we meet and fall in love, we fall in love with someone who can give us what we need, physically, emotionally, and intellectually. But, that's not love. It's not love for the beloved. It's locating someone who can gratify our needs. Self-gratification most often shows up disguised as love.
What we get out of a relationship determines the degree to which we love another person. A person that reflects back at us the man or woman we want to be is a person we can love. "Is she beautiful," can only be affirmed depending on how beautiful she makes me feel. "Is he your soulmate," only gets a nod of approval if he "gets me." If he gets her, then she reciprocates. He does his part, and she then pays it forward. But, that's not love.
When we define love by what someone else can give to us, our definition is selfish. This type of love is dehumanizing for both lover and beloved because self-gratification masquerading as love rejects the other person as a person, and treats them as an object. They're only a mirror serving to show us, "who's the fairest of them all."
This kind of self-seeking love can't be honest. So we lie and declare our love for each other so long as we provide each other with an opportunity to love ourselves. We love those who enable us to see our love for ourselves reflected back at us.
We love those who enable us to see our love for ourselves reflected back at us.
That's why we have so much trouble with God's love. God's love doesn't mask his need for self-gratification. His love for us isn't selfish or dehumanizing. God's love is selfless, so much so that he even extends it to his enemies. He holds up his love for the world to see, stretched out on an executioner's stake at Golgotha. Jesus is God's love.
God's love comes to us, and he disgusts us. Jesus' selfless, self-giving love exposes the truth about us. What we define as love is a masquerade. We don't want to love selflessly in a Christ-like way. We want our needs met. But Jesus comes and doesn't meet any of our needs. Instead, he shows us our true need. We need a God who loves us so much that he will suffer us to reject it.
When Jesus meets us and declares his love for us, we don't immediately fall in love with him. That's impossible. He doesn't offer to satisfy our physical, emotional, and intellectual needs. He knows that's not the love we need. He comes to stir up our love for him: the source of all love. Jesus doesn't gratify our needs. He won't contribute to our doomed attempts at self-love.
Jesus speaks, and his words express a love that's incomprehensible to us. He sends us a preacher to absolve us of our selfishness. He baptizes us to regenerate and renew us. He feeds us his body and blood for the forgiveness of our sin so that faith can be strengthened and selfless, self-giving love toward God and neighbor increased.
But Jesus comes and doesn't meet any of our needs. Instead, he shows us our true need.
Jesus doesn't appeal to our needs to get us to love him. Instead, he reflects our selfishness back at us when he expresses his love to us: a crucified, bloody, stinking of the grave kind of love. He loves us without limit or measure, even when we decide it would be better if we took a break for a while and saw other people (and other saviors). He speaks his love into us, washes us in his love, and pours his love down our throats, in spite of all we do to ruin the relationship.
Jesus isn't a more perfect vehicle for our self-gratification. He's God's love in the flesh. He can't be manipulated or used to satisfy our needs. Instead, he reveals our true need when he gives himself to us. Then he turns us toward each other to love as he loves us. That's what true love does. Love doesn't ask, "What's in it for me." True, Christ-expressed love says, "I forgive you." "I love you for your sake." "Because I love you, this is what I'm going to do for you. No thanks expected or needed."
God's love is a pure gift for us, easily located in the person of Christ Jesus who died for our sin and rose again so that we never have to wonder, "Will I ever know true love?"