This weekend we sang:
- “You Make Me Brave” by Bethel Worship
- “Father You Are All We Need” by Citizens & Saints
- “How Deep The Father’s Love For Us” by lots of folks (I like the Kings Kaleidoscope version)
- “How He Loves” by lots of folks (I like the David Crowder version)
- “Grace Alone” by The Modern Post/Dustin Kensrue
- “The Time Has Come” by Hillsong Worship
Attached is a playlist and I encourage you to check it out. If you like the tunes please buy them so that the artists can continue creating excellent worship for us to sing.
This weekend we sang a song that was popular a few years back and oft debated: “How He Loves.” And I want to spend some time thinking about what it means that “Yeah! He loves us! How he loves us! How he loves us!” and then some.
But it’s difficult to write about love for various reasons. For some it’s too effeminate. For others it’s effervescent, flighty, and poorly defined. For others its abstract and impractical. For some its just about who we go home to at night. But then there’s the Apostle Paul writing:
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
from 1 Corinthians 13
What is love though? Is it an emotion? Is it whose bed your boots are under? Is it something government legislates? Is it butterflies fluttering about your abdomen? Is it charity? Feeding the poor? Is it poetry and verse? What makes love so great?
Singing “How He Loves” we sang about God’s jealousy towards us, about how the weight and force of God’s love bends us like a hurricane bends a tree, we sang that He is our portion and we’re His prize, and a swell turn of a phrase for the butterflies (“my heart turned violently inside my chest”). But it’s a bit obtuse so when we get to that amazing chorus: “Yeah he loves us, yeah he loves us, yeah he loves…” ad ininitum what are we singing?
A different author writes it this way:
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 1 John 3.16
Working backwards through the service, when we took communion and as we approached the table I sang “How Deep The Father’s Love For Us.”
“That He should give His only son to make a wretch His treasure, how great the pain of searing loss, the father turns His face away as wounds which mar the Chosen One bring many sons to glory.”
More often than not I’m tempted to think of love as an abstraction of emotion and romantic experience but as we gather at the table and we take the bread and we drink the wine we recognize the great reality of love.
God doesn’t love us so much that He has warm thoughts towards us. God is not an anxious high school student at prom standing across the dance floor with all the other nervous hopefuls wishing that we’ll like him enough to dance.
The love of God is not obtuse, it is not distant, it is not effeminate, it is not an emotion. It is a gift from a father to his wayward children. God’s love is tangible. It is very Real. The weight of His love is more Real than our heaviest and realest emotion or experience. The weight of His love doesn’t just bow us down, it is so very Real and Heavy that it bends His own self down. We know what love is because God bent toward us and gave us His son. We know what love is because while we were still awful, God-hating rebels Jesus died for us.
CS Lewis in my second favorite of his books, The Four Loves, writes:
God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing – or should we say “seeing”? there are no tenses in God – the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up. If I may dare the biological image, God is a “host” who deliberately creates His own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and “take advantage of” Him. Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves.
Love is the tangible reality of God. It can be touched, it can be tasted, it can be seen, in all ways we can experience here and now with our senses. At a specific moment, in real time the flesh of love was torn, pierced, and hung up on a tree.
“Yeah He loves us, oh how He loves us.”