Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
1 John 4:7-12 (NIV, emphasis added).
The concept of God being love runs through Christianity. However, this is an important mystery in itself that is worth inquiring. In fact, it is so important that Paul encouraged the Christians in Ephesus to “be rooted and established in love” so that they may have the “power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and deep is the love of Christ”. The love that “surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”. (Ephesians 3:17-19, NIV).
This paper aims to look at just “how wide and long and deep” is the love of Christ through socio-psychological theories of love.
The Love that Encompasses it all – Analysis Based on Dr Lige Dailey Jr’s 14 Major Love Styles.
Trying to understand a love that “surpasses knowledge” may be daunting, if not impossible. But there are ways in which we can scratch the surface and admire the depths of the Maker’s love for us.
Given that humans are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), understanding the love of God can begin from the sciences of human relationships.
In the book entitled “Do we Really Know What Love Is,” Dr Lige Dailey Jr gave us 14 Major Love Styles that people establish very early in their lives. Given the complexities of human social lives, everyone has their own unique love styles. However, God being omnipotent and omniscient is the epitome of what it is to be human. He is, more human than any human ever created. Hence, we are able to fit every 14 major love styles into God’s description; giving us a better understanding of His Character.
For this segment, I will list out the love style and accompany it with a verse that describes the love of God.
- Romantic Love Style (Romantics believe in love at first sight and will overcome every obstacle for love). – “You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride; you have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.” (Song of Songs 4:9, NIV)
- Dependent Love Style (Dependent lovers make their partners the center of the universe. They are very easily jealous and have an insatiable need for constant attention). – “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God”. (Exodus 34:14, NIV).
- God-Centered Love Style (A love style that places God above everything else. A partner must have a personal connection with God to be an acceptable mate). – “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the World may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21, NIV).
- Best-Friends Love Style (A love style that related to their partners as equals, enjoying mutual support, companionship, sharing secrets and laughter). – “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know His Master’s Business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” (John 15:14-16, NIV).
- Practical Love Style (Practical lovers live comfortably on a small budget. They tend to be private people who are disciplined, peaceful, and well organized.) – “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:8-9, NIV).
- Compromise Love Style (Compromise lovers attempt to make the best out of life’s circumstances without protest.) – “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7, NIV)
- Ideal Love Style (Ideal lovers could never love anyone who is not ideal). – “Husbands, love your wife, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant Church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but Holy and Blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27, NIV).
- Unconditional Love Style (Unconditional lovers do not need their partner to return their affection in the same ways as it is given.) – “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13, NIV).
- Sexual Love Style (Sexual lovers value sexual satisfaction above all others.) – “How beautiful you are and how pleasing, my love, with your delights! Your stature is like that of the palm, and your breasts like clusters of fruit. I said, ‘I will climb the palm tree; I will take hold of its fruit.’ May your breasts be like clusters of grapes on the vine, the fragrance of your breath like apples, and your mouth like the best wine.” (Song of Songs 7:6-9, NIV).
- Game Playing Love Style (Game players enjoy searching for truths in their partners. Compatible partners must be intelligent, resilient, and able to handle the unexpected.) – “My Son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding—indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2:1-5, NIV).
- Self-Centered Love Style (Self-Centered lovers can only give love if they initiate it and not if it is demanded of them). – “And the Lord said, ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (Exodus 33:19, NIV).
- Status-Seeking Love Style (Status seeking lovers are conscious of social rank and standing. They enjoy being on the center stage, and detest the average or typical.) – “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13, NIV).
- Traditional Love Style (A love style that seeks partners who can affirm and assist them in satisfying their socialized needs. They are monogamous and committed to the institution of marriage.) – “Then God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” (Genesis 2:18, NIV).
- Consciousness-Expanding Love Style (These lovers are drawn to people with beliefs and lifestyles which enhance and expand their self-awareness and knowledge. It is a reality-based partnership with the primary purpose of sharing uplifting experiences. – “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12, NIV).
The Love We Are Created For – Analysis Based on Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love
The Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love gives us three components of love that work together to produce seven different kinds of love. However, for the purpose of this segment, we will look at the ultimate type of love based on the fundamental understanding that God is the epitome of Love.
The three segments of Sternberg’s theory are 1) Intimacy, 2) Passion, and 3) Commitment. Intimacy promotes the closeness, bondedness, and connectedness between lovers. Passion promotes romance, physical attraction, and sexual consummation. And lastly, commitment is the decision that one person makes that helps the person maintain a long-term commitment to maintain the love over time.
These three segments of love are strikingly similar to God’s demand of worship and of love, that is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37, NIV; emphasis added).
The equivalence of the theory of love can be drawn as per follows:
- “Intimacy” resembles “Soul”
- “Passion” resembles “Heart”
- “Commitment” resembles “Mind”
Intimacy on the Soul Level.
“After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.” – (1 Samuel 18:1, NIV)
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be One, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” (John 17:20-21a, NIV).
The Heart that burns with Passion
“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:11-12, NIV).
“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.” (Revelations 2:4, NIV; emphasis added).
The Commitment of the Mind
“…He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6, NIV).
“He remembers His covenant forever, the promise He made, for a thousand generations.” (Psalms 105:8, NIV).
According to Sternberg, the ultimate form of love, the “consummate love” is the only type of love that encompasses all three components: intimacy, passion, and commitment. It is the most complete form of love and represents the ideal relationship for which people strive for but few achieve. According to Sternberg, the maintenance of “consummate love” is harder than achieving it. The achievement of consummate love would require an intricate balance of all three factors of love for a specified period of time. However, the maintenance of “consummate love” will require the constant balance of the three factors of love over the period of time that one wants to sustain the relationship for. In other words, if God wants an eternal relationship with us, He will be called to balance intimacy, passion, and commitment for all of eternity.
The lacking of any segment of love will result in the loss of the ideal type of love, resulting in infatuation, fatuous love, companionate love, empty love, or the like.
The Eternal Breakup
Since God is such a loving God, God will never forsake us, right?
There are ways that we are able to “quench the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19), and “grieve the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 4:30). The Bible also teaches us to fear “the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28, NIV). The idea that an individual may choose something else other than God to the extent where God openly declare an eternal death with the individual is extremely probable. We must not forget that it is God’s intent for all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), but “if we disown Him, He will also disown us” (2 Timothy 2:12, NIV).
Analysis of earthly human breakups can give us a glimpse of how God may depart from us should we choose something else other than Him. According to social psychologist Steven Duck (1982), he theorizes that a relationship may deteriorate through four main phases of dissolution, namely 1) Intrapersonal phase, 2) Dyadic phase, 3) Social phase, 4) Grave dressing phase.
For the purpose of this segment, a “break up” with God will be characterized by “death” (Genesis 2:17), for “In God was life, and that life was the light of all mankind” (John 1:4, NIV). This “death” can be seen as the death of all humankind, or a specific community. But it can also be viewed as the death of an individual in the eyes of God.
The Intrapersonal Phase (also known as the intrapsychic phase) refers to the phase when a person cannot stand a certain dissatisfaction with the relationship anymore. During this phase, the individual privately considers withdrawing from the relationship.
Since the Creation, God had contemplated on His own, the prospect of the complete annihilation of humankind.
“The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that He had made human beings on the earth, and His heart was deeply troubled.” (Genesis 6:5-6, NIV).
The core reason for God stepping onto this phase was the human sin.
Dyadic phase refers to the phase when an individual focus on the justification of withdrawal. The individual discusses the breakup with his/her partner and negotiates the fate of the relationship. If the relationship does not produce reconciliation, then a decision to terminate the relationship is agreed.
“‘Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.’ For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 1:18-20, NIV).
During this phase, God put forth a proposal for reconciliation. A discussion with the other party for the fate of the relationship will determine whether or not reconciliation can be achieved or whether the termination of the relationship is required.
Social phase refers to the phase when an individual is determined to terminate the relationship. During this phase, the news of the termination is publicized.
God is faithful, and He cares for all communities. If there is a few righteous souls in a sinful community, He will not destroy it. However, God has condemned entire cities to destruction in history. And He publicized it through His discussion with others and allowed others to intercede for them in prayers. The famous story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18-19) is a great example of God walking with a community through a breakup of the Social Phase.
“Then the Lord said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?’” (Genesis 18:17, NIV).
“So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and He brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.” (Genesis 19:29, NIV).
The Lord discussed with Abraham openly about the destruction of Sodom. The Lord swore if there are 10 righteous people within the city, He will not destroy it. God then sent angels to usher Lot and his family out of the city before destroying it, for they were the only righteous ones.
Grave dressing phase refers to the phase when an individual aim to get over the trauma inflicted from the consequences of the breakup. In this phase, a one-sided account of the breakup might be given.
We should be thankful that no God-human relationship ever reached this stage. The closest anything in the Bible came to this stage was the Heavenly Father turning His eyes away from Christ when Christ bore the weight of sins of all humankind.
“About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani? (Which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’)” (Matthew 27:46, NIV).
The very act of forsaking may represent a certain withdrawal, a certain attempt to get over a break-up. In context, the act of “forsaking” from the Father meant the turning away / looking away of God the Father from Christ due to the sins Christ bore on the cross. This is then followed by an element of “spiritual death” on Christ’s part (by spiritual death, I refer to the separation of the Father and Son). During this phase, the Father may appear to be attempting an act to get over the trauma that is currently unfolding before His eyes.
We may never know what was God’s exact expression at that very instant, but there is a connotation that the trauma is great and fatally painful.
Having established that all four phases of break up can be identified in the Christian faith and that the break up may refer to any form of relationship in the realm of the divine, we need to be extremely cautious about our relationship with God.
How to Better Our Relationship with God – 4 Things God Expects of Us.
Our relationship with God should encompass all our human character. Through this, we should look upon the relationship with God as a cumulative experience of all human interactions that we experience on earth. Socio-psychologists gave us four main categories of attraction to consider when we aim to increase of attractiveness to others. Coincidentally, these four tenets of attractiveness can also be applied to being attractive to the Almighty Creator.
The Propinquity Effect
The propinquity effect refers to the likelihood of people forming close relationships with people who they interact the most with. This effect takes into consideration the proximity to the person and the frequency of exposure with the person.
In other words, propinquity effect simply meant the more you meet the person, the more likely you’ll be attracted to the person and they will be attracted to you.
In Christian terms, this meant the deliberateness in meeting with God, through scriptural readings, prayers, constant meditation, and devotion to His ministry. The more we do it, the more attractive we are to God, and God to us.
“For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:29, NIV).
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5, NIV).
Aristotle noted that people have a certain biasness for people with similar characteristics more than 2,500 years ago. People with similar characteristics can help each other validate their self-worth. Similarity is perceived through shared values and attitudes and hence, leading to an increased sense of attractiveness. On the contrary, people of opposite traits can be seen as unpleasant, weak, or sometimes, stupid.
In Christian terms, increasing our similarity index with Christ may increase our attractiveness in the eyes of God. Likewise, we may also become more and more appreciative of the character of Christ as our self-worth is being validated by the Creator of the Universe.
“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2, NIV).
Reciprocal liking stems from the belief that the other party really likes us. To put it simply, if the other party truly likes us, this will increase our likings of that person.
“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, NIV).
God the Father has done the first step. Now, it is for us to reciprocate. In fact, this act of reciprocating should be easier as we are all psychologically attracted to people who show that they really like us.
To apply this theory, the more we like Christ, the more God will also be attracted to us. Of course, God’s love “surpasses knowledge”. In some instances, God’s love can be seen as infinite. But it can increase just as how ours increases, that it “overflow for each other and for everyone else”. (1 Thessalonians 3:12).
The Effect of Physical Attractiveness on Liking
Lastly, physical attractiveness plays a humongous part in garnering attractiveness and likings. Studies have shown that beautiful people are perceived to be more sexually desirable, happier, and more assertive. This stereotype of “beauty” is rampant regardless of cultures.
And this stereotype is applied in heaven.
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind, our sins sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64:6, NIV).
Because of sin, we have become filthy, dirty, and visually unpleasant to God. In other words, we are disgusting.
But because of the salvation of Christ, we will be able to “delight greatly in the Lord”. “My soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, and arrayed me in a robe of His righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns His head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10, NIV).
A time will come when all believers will be made ready and ushered into heaven, wearing fine linen that resembles righteous acts of God’s Holy People that is bright and clean. (Revelations 19:8).
Hence, applying the above theory, we will increase our physical attractiveness through our acceptance of God’s gift of salvation, by faith. And in love, obey His commands and do as He so loves.
Now that you’ve learned so much about God. Do you love Him more?