When I say “I love you”, I mean that I care about you and want to be part of your life. I mean you are important to me and have special value in my life. I mean you are a beloved relationship of significance in my life.
I mean we don’t always get along or agree, but I don’t give up on our relationship or throw (toss) you aside. I don’t walk away from you because we can’t understand each other. Because differences don’t have to be irreconcilable. Jesus dined with sinners and showed us the beauty of fellowship. He loved to be around people who thought, acted, and believed differently from Himself, and He was able to quietly invade their world with His compassion toward, generosity toward, and willingness to be with them.
I mean you are allowed to give input and share wisdom, even if I am too stubborn or obnoxious to hear you. I appreciate your opinion because I know you may see something I cannot. I need your viewpoint to help me find clarity. I see the value of you having different life experiences and being outside my present circumstances.
I mean I think of you on a regular basis. I will make an effort to keep in touch with you, because you matter. I will text, write, or call from time to time, just to say “hi”, if I haven’t heard from you. I will buy and mail you trinkets I find during my adventures that call your name.
I mean that when you are sad so am I. When you are struggling, I want to comfort and help you. I feel your pain and empathize with you. My heart aches with your pains, and I want to make them better. Even if all I can do is listen and offer a sympathetic ear.
I mean I will do my best to love you unconditionally, as God does. Jesus tells us in Mark 12:31 the importance of loving people without limits (…‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’…). Because that’s how He loved, and He is our example (John 13:34 – “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”). A love without contention and hypocrisy (Romans 12:9). A love that shows preference to others (Romans 12:10). A love that looks to help instead of harm (Romans 13:9a).
But no matter what I mean, what I say, or how I treat you, I cannot come close to loving you as God does. Because His love is indescribable in its glorious magnificence. But let me try to describe it (in my limited human abilities).
When God says “I love you”, He means unconditionally. He means completely. He means without cause or effect. He means forever and always.
He means no thing, no event, no cause, no thought, no action, no intention, no fear, no doubt, no shame, or no blame will change His mind (Romans 8:31-39).
He means He will love you through happy and sad moments, easy and difficult times, praises and prayer requests, valleys and mountaintops, hunger and full bellies, complaints and contentment, fears and confidence, love and anger, confusion and certainty.
He means His love so is magnanimous and so big that we as humans cannot understand how deep it runs, how long it lasts, how wide it stretches, and how high it reaches (Ephesians 3:18) in its efforts to find out, reach us, and keep us.
He means He embraces us where we are, accepting and covering our weaknesses, fears, excuses, and flaws with His grace (1 Corinthians 13:7 – “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”).
He means He loves you so much that He gave His Son, the Christ, who willingly died a brutal death to crucify and redeem all your sins and doubts so you could be reconnected to Him (John 3:16, Romans 5:8, Galatians 2:5, Ephesians 5:2, 1 John 4:9-10) and experience His great grace (Galatians 2:7) as He delivered you from the darkness of sin (Colossians 1:13).
He means that no matter what your past or current circumstances, He can show His glory and elicit your praise as you see His love shining through the dark, empty, and hopeless places (Romans 8:28).
He means that He has great plans and purposes for you and wants to guide you into them (1 Corinthians 2:9).
He means that He will develop His fruit in you, the springboard of which is His love. From His love will grow the spiritual strength and fortitude you need to fight the good fight and love and help people (Galatians 5:22-23a).
He means that His love makes you holy and gives you right standing with Him (Ephesians 1:4), so we can approach Him with confidence (Hebrews 4:16) with anything.
He means that His love will overcome all our fears and overshadow all our doubts so we are compelled by His Spirit instead of our ideologies (2 Timothy 1:7, 1 John 4:18).
He means that He will walk with you through trials and temptations to encourage you and guide you so you come out victorious with the crown of life (James 1:12).
God loves you. No doubt about it. No way around it. No escape from it. He loves you and wants to hang out with you. He wants to be part of your life. He wants to show you a better way as He allows you to be part of His bigger plan. And all He asks in return is your willingness – He wants your heart, mind, and body to be open and willing to follow Him in whatever direction He leads.
So He loves you. And I’m working on loving you too in the same way. As I allow His love to fill all the spaces of my heart, I’ll get better at loving you. No matter where you are. No matter what you do. No matter how you act. No matter who you are.
And until I reach the day of perfection, I can pray this prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to love people as You do. Help me do everything in love (1 Corinthians 16:14). Fill my heart with Your agape love so I am able to love all men in new ways with abounding grace (1 Thessalonians 3:12). Direct me, Lord, “into the love of God and into the patience of Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:5) as I look for ways to be compassionate, loving, and courteous to my fellow man (1 Peter 3:8). Help me, Lord, so my love is obvious by my words and actions (1 John 3:18); let my love not just be careless words but a case for the mercy and glory of Your Holy Name. In Jesus’ Almighty Name I ask and believe. AMEN!
Marie Fremin, 9/7/15