When I was in elementary school, each year before Valentine’s Day we would bring in an empty shoebox. We would cover those boxes with pink and red papers and heart shaped cut-outs, and then add our names in big, sparkly letters. When Valentine’s Day finally arrived, our classmates would drop cards into a slit cut out at the top of the box. Back then, kids only had to bring in cards for the people they liked. When you went home that afternoon, you counted your cards to see how many friends you had — it was a childish way to measure your worth.
These days, we don’t need shoebox Valentines for that, we have social media. Based on the number of likes, follows, retweets, and pins, we can tally up how many “friends” we have, still boiling things down to numbers. We keep record of how much we are loved based on how others treat us. Our relationships are based on quid pro quo — scratching backs and procuring favors. “What have you done for me lately?” is the theme song that defines too many relationships. We only give as much as someone else has given to us. We like to keep the scales balanced. Not only that, but our memories are long. We never lose track of what we are owed.
Real Love Cannot Be Measured
I once found a book on numbers for my kids to read. It listed the names of numbers higher than billions and trillions. Now when they want to exaggerate and say that something is so big, bigger than they can count, they say “googolplex.” Yet even a number that high is still quantifiable.
Real love isn’t something you can measure.
But real love isn’t something you can measure. The love God has for us is beyond numbers and can’t be tallied. When God promised to bless Abraham with countless children, he used the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore as a metaphor. These are things people simply cannot count. Paul described the love of Christ as surpassing knowledge (Ephesians 3:19). And the psalmist wrote, “Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds” (Psalm 36:5).
God’s love for us goes farther than even time itself, into the deep recesses of eternity past. It stretched all the way from forever, forward to the cross, and will continue into eternity future. “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:4–5).
His love for us is a love that doesn’t hold back. His love gives everything, to the point of sacrificing his very own Son. At the cross, the perfect eternal love of the triune God was shown most vividly as the Son bore all our sins for us. This is unquantifiable, immeasurable love.
Unlike many human relationships, we can’t add to God’s love for us. We can’t do anything to make him “unfriend” us. His love for us is perfect and complete. It is not based on what we can do for him or what we have to offer. It can’t be that way simply because he has no needs that we could ever meet. His love originates in himself and not in anything we have done or will do. This unconditional love is the love he set on Israel and it is the same love he has for us. “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you” (Deuteronomy 7:7–8).
Our Love for Others
In our own flesh, our love for others would always be conditional and dependent on how others treat us. But because God has poured out his immeasurable, unquantifiable love for us through Christ, we have been changed. Our hearts of stone have been transformed to hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). We’ve been given the Spirit who now lives within us. As the Spirit works in us, making us more like Jesus, he enables us to love in a new and different way. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” (Galatians 5:22). Through the work of the Spirit, we can give without expecting anything in return. We can be patient, kind, and compassionate. We can love as Jesus loves.
But there is an order to this love that we cannot forget. It originates with God. He is the beginning and source to our love. First John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us.” We cannot truly love apart from him. Only as we abide in God’s love can we extend his love to others.
Only as we abide in God’s love can we extend his love to others.
So this Valentine’s Day, as the world keeps a tally of love, may we never forget that God’s love for us is greater than anything we can imagine. It is greater than googolplex and more than the stars in the sky. It is immeasurable, steadfast, and permanent. And that same amazing love has been given to us to extend it to others. May we give that love, without keeping score, knowing that God’s love for us keeps no record, because in Jesus, our debts have been marked: “paid in full.”