When does love start? Is it love at first sight across a school yard or a slow maturation like a quality wine or cheese? What initiates the first flutter of human attraction and affection and leads to a gradual dawning of love’s true dream? A sight, a smell, a smile? All human love has a beginning.
When does love end? Is it with the increasing burden of what we call life and the gradual drift from intimacy? Perhaps it is with the passing of the first flush of infatuation. All too often it is when another younger model or more empathic listener catches the eye or captures the heart. For some it carries on through until death and beyond in the cherished memories of those left behind. But, as sure as human love has a beginning, it also has an end.
What of divine love, the love that originates in the One of whom the Bible says “God is love” (1 John 4:8,16)? When does God’s love start and how long does God’s love last? God speaks to His people in the verse I have quoted from the book of Jeremiah, stating, “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love”. This is a love that is without beginning and without end. Just as He is from everlasting to everlasting, existing outside of time, so too is His love. He has always loved you and He always will. But true love is a love that acts. True love reaches out to its object in declaration, demonstration and invitation. What is love, that is neither declared nor demonstrated, and that does not invite the beloved into its life?
God has loved us with an everlasting love. “Therefore”, the verse says, “with loving kindness [faithful love] I have drawn you”. The captivating beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ insistently calls you into loving, faithful relationship with Him. We deal with those closest to us in mercy, not justice only, withholding, at times, what punishment might be deserved, and showing grace and goodness where retribution might be just. We forgive, we forget, we don’t hold grudges, because love trumps our desire for vengeance. Love covers a multitude of sins. Despite our sins and our breaking of His law, the invitation from God is heard above the clamour of the accusations of the law (that we have broken), our conscience (that we cannot salve), and the devil (whose taunts we cannot ignore). God’s call to sinners, through Jesus Christ, His Son, is this: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NIV).
Does God begin to love me when I become a Christian by turning from my sin and putting my faith in what Christ did on the cross of Calvary? The Bible tells us that God “demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God loved you before you were born. God loves you just the way you are but far too much to leave you that way. God’s love prompted Him to plan a rescue mission for your soul, costing him the death of Jesus Christ, His Son, in agony and shame at the hands of cruel Roman soldiers around 2,000 years ago.
God’s love draws us to Him but we have to respond through repentance from our sins and faith in Christ in order to enjoy His love that had no beginning and, we can be sure, will have no end.