God’s love has always been mutually enjoyed – it looks for a resting place and yearns for reciprocation. His love is only “complete” when those he’s reaching out to reach back. Let’s review what John said about the Singer’s song sung to us and sung by us back to him.
“If anyone obeys his Word, God’s love is truly made complete in him…”
“If we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us…”
“In this way love is made complete among us…”
“Love, in its very essence is reciprocal. It’s perfect ideal requires two parties. It is not enough to tell us, as a bare abstract truth, that God is love. The truth must be rounded and filled out for us by the divine love upon as an object, and by the response of the object. The love of God is perfected or completed by the establishment of the relation between God and people.” Marvin R. Vincent
“We love him because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
Though we love to sing about God, our songs don’t begin with us – they’re antiphonal. We sing in response to his song about us. He bursts out in his song of love and we return it in kind – ours is an echo of him who sang it first. When we dance in joy, we dance with him who leads. Our enjoyment of him began, and will always begin, with his enjoyment of us.
Undoubtedly you’ve noticed that when we begin to worship him his presence seeps into our consciousness. He was there all along, of course, rejoicing over us with his own song. When we started to sing, our voices harmonized with his, our eyes were opened to him dancing and rejoicing over us, inviting us to join the celebration. His song and its accompanying revelry is then, as John said, being “made complete!”
He keeps singing even when we don’t…
Of course it’s true that God keeps on loving even when his agape isn’t reciprocated, but only when one of his beloveds returns his advances is the joy of mutual love realized. Receiving the benefits of his agape is in the act of returning it back to him. I experience it most in the reciprocation. How can I ever feel the warmth of how he feels about me if I don’t respond in some way to show him how I feel about him? When I receive and reciprocate his love; the world is as it should be. It’s what we were put here to do – love the Lover of our souls!
Don’t misunderstand. God would not be any less God if no one returned his affection. He wouldn’t implode if the whole world chose not to sing his song back to him. He isn’t dependent on us to love him in order to be secure within himself. His security is in himself. He had intimate fellowship among his triune essence before the world began; and though he created us to be loved and to love him in return, his eternal fellowship would remain intact even if he had no takers.
Even if no one returned God’s love, he’d still love, because it’s his nature. “God is love… God so loved the world…” He loves a world full of people, many of whom will never love him back. Though his offer stands, those who reject it won’t directly benefit from it. If I love someone, and yet they never choose to counter my affections, then both of us miss the joy of mutual love. If they reject me, neither of us enjoys love’s benefits. We both miss the elation of loving and being loved. Everybody loses.
“God’s heart was grieved… and his heart was filled with pain.” Genesis 6:6
“And don’t grieve the Holy Spirit of God…” Ephesians 4:30
Until we love him back, his agape, though constant and fixed, won’t be savored by us, and his own outstretched heart is in some way unfulfilled (“incomplete”). Those who don’t return his love miss out on its warmth, and because his passion has no place to alight, I have no doubt that God himself feels the heartache. Love unrequited becomes more of an ache in my heart than a joy to it. My love, in that case, hurts me more than heartens me. I can only imagine that with the mass of humanity that rejects him, on some level, God’s heart lives in a sort of unremitting state of restlessness and grief. He offers his love to all his creatures, and so few return it.
We’re told to love people who don’t love us in return. I don’t do it very well, but fortunately God does. His agape for us remains constant regardless of our response to it. It’s who he is. When we don’t love him back, he grieves and we miss out on the benefits of being “so loved.” How would we survive if we had so much affection to give, and so few received and returned it?
On the flip side, the ecstasy of reaching out and finding receivers who become reciprocators of love is so great that God was willing to risk the grief.
[Part four is around the corner…]