A Biblical Theology of Love
Love is at the heart of the Bible.
God loved us so much he sent his only be-loved Son to love us by blood, so that we would likewise love and treasure this be-loved Son (John 3:16, Revelation 1:5).
But that doesn’t tell the full story. On the cross, Christ initiated a love to break our love-less sin, to gift us with new hearts, and to make us love-givers (1 John 4:19). The Holy Spirit pours God’s love into us (Romans 5:5; Galatians 5:22).
Such love has a full-bodied Trinitarian flavor, with ancient roots dug deep in the Old Testament. And one scholar building on this theme is Jason DeRouchie, Associate Professor of Old Testament at Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis.
DeRouchie is the editor of an innovative new book: What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About: A Survey of Jesus’ Bible, a full-color, illustrated survey of the Old Testament storyline from a distinctly Christ-centered and Christian perspective (Luke 24:44).
DeRouchie penned the notes on Deuteronomy, a book he is well versed in, and I recently asked him for a mini biblical theology of love beginning with Deuteronomy and the famous Shema, which reads: “Hear, O Israel: The Lᴏʀᴅ our God, the Lᴏʀᴅ is one. You shall love the Lᴏʀᴅ your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4–5).
All love begins with God, DeRouchie told me, “Because in his call for us to love him, that is where we know greatest joy for eternity. God loves us by calling us to love him.” And it’s a call to an all-embracing love, to love him with our heart and soul — our desires, our will, and all our motivations.
“But bigger than that,” DeRouchie said, “it’s a love that includes all our actions, our words, how we treat others, our perception, everything connected with our being.” Our love for God is all-encompassing; it includes loving God with all our might (literally, all our ‘very-ness’), which includes all our powers, wealth, resources, everything: “our car, our wife, our social media, our clothing, our children, our house. Love for God is wholehearted, life-encompassing, and community-embracing. Everywhere we go, everything we do cries out: ‘The Lᴏʀᴅ is one in my life!’”
But such a love expressed from our lips and hearts and wallets and smartphones requires a radical heart transformation. This has always been true (Deuteronomy 10:16). To love God and to love our neighbors, like the Law commanded, requires new hearts. In the Old Testament, this is the promise of the coming New Covenant (Ezekiel 11:19–20, 36:26).
The gospel is essential for every eternal love. “All my love is a blood-bought love,” DeRouchie said. “My joy in Christ, my delight in all that God has secured for me, is now what defines me. I am in this world to magnify the greatness of God shown to me in love. And every decision I make, every encounter I have, is about loving God, which overflows in love of neighbor. The fuel for loving my neighbor in a self-sacrificial way, regardless of the cost, is my joy and satisfaction in God.”
More on the Line
But this is only a start. For more on how love develops in the storyline of the Bible, listen to our full 39-minute conversation. There we address some practical Christ-centered ways love gets refreshed in our lives, lessons drawn from 1 Timothy 1:5.
A sampling of previous Authors on the Line podcasts —
- From Radical Lesbian to Redeemed Christian: An Autobiographical Interview with Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
- Life in God’s Cosmic Theater: An Interview with Kevin Vanhoozer
- Porn, Pride, and Praise: An Interview with Heath Lambert
- Manhood Restored: An Interview with Eric Mason
- The Bible as One Story: An Interview with Tom Schreiner