Three words are of great importance in any ongoing, vital relationship. Yet these words can often become trite, routine, and meaningless because they are used in unthinking habits. When first spoken, they are powerful and motivating. They thrill the heart and excite and inflame passions. Yet years later, though still spoken, they can become trivial clichés with no more import than a simple, “How are you?” or “See you later.” The words I’m speaking of are, “I love you.”
In the first moments of a relationship these are tremendously authoritative and hopeful words. They drive and compel a relationship. But to often they decline in importance and significance because we fail to meditate on the significance of those words and we fail to speak them intentionally — “Stop. Look at me. Hear these words. I speak them purposefully with all the force of the biblical commands behind them: I love you — I am committed to do all that I can for you and your best interests regardless of what it costs me, because it is my joy to do so and because nothing better reflects my love for Christ when I do that.” Instead, we often flippantly offer an over-the-should parting, “love ya…” that carries no more meaning than a “thanks” that we offer the cashier at the drive-through lane for our hamburger at lunch.
We do well to contemplate the meaning of those words, “I love you.” We do well to think of the significance of those words as we speak them, and as they are spoken to us. And we do well to thing of them particularly in our relationship to Christ and what they mean when He speaks them to us.
Thomas Vincent has helped us begin to think of the significance of Christ’s love for us and ours for Him in his brief, yet important work, The True Christian’s Love to the Unseen Christ. Consider the following section, in which he exhorts the believer to meditate on the freedom of Christ’s love for believers — that nothing in us has compelled Him to love us:
Consider that Christ loves you with the freest love. “We love Him—because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19. There are many motives and attractions for your love to Christ—but Christ’s love to you is most free. There is nothing in yourselves to draw and engage His love except deformity and enmity to Him, except filthiness which He loathes, and wickedness which His soul hates; these are the only motives. There is no man in the world that loves you, but he finds or fancies some loveliness in you, something to be a motive to draw his love to you. Wit is a motive to some, wealth to others, beauty to some, strength to others, near relation to some, dear love to others, liberality to some, service to others, greatness to some, goodness to others. Likeness, whether it is in good or evil, is a motive to the love of the most. But Christ’s first love to you is altogether free; that which is a motive to men, and induces their love to you, is no motive to incline the love of Christ.
The sin which you brought into the world with you, and the many sins which, since you came into the world, have been committed by you, are enough to shut out all motives of love in Christ, unto whom all sin is so odious and abominable. Whatever motive induces Christ to love you, it was not drawn from yourselves, but it was drawn from His own bowels, and will not this free love of Christ incline you to love Him? Does He love you most freely, and will you not love Him most dearly? Did Christ love you without any motive to draw His love, and will you not love Christ, in whom there are so many motives to draw your love? Did Christ begin to love, and will not you make a return? Did Christ love you with all your sinfulness and vileness, and will you not love Him in whom there is such perfect beauty? If you now have any spiritual beauty, it is through the loveliness which Christ has put upon you; but Christ’s first love was free, which is a matter of the greatest admiration, and should be a motive unto the greatest affection.
Let us contemplate this great love from Him for us, and let us love Him all the more because of it.