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Chapter 3 – Adventures in Love

From the book Relational Holiness – Responding to the Call of Love by Thomas J. Oord and Michael Lodahl

Love functions as the core notion of holiness.

  • Love starts with God.[1]

God made us in His image (Genesis 1:27, ESV) so we bear some of that image in that we naturally love through “Affection” (storge), “Friendship” (philia), and “Romantic Love” (Eros). However, where we have a vision and enjoyment of God, this is initiated by God’s Prevenient grace.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10, NIV)

From here, this supports and increases by God’s continual grace and is facilitated by our actions in imitating Christ, God incarnate. We become nearer in our approach to God as we become more like Christ in the way we live our lives (Philippians 2:1-13, ESV).

God, as Creator of nature, created in us both “Gift-Loves” and “Need-Loves“.

Divine “Gift-Love” – Love Himself (God) working in a person – is wholly disinterested and desires what is simply best for the beloved. Our “natural” “Gift-Loves” are always directed at objects that the lover finds loveable in some sense. However, Divine “Gift-Love” enables one to love what is not naturally lovable.

Additionally, God enables us to love Him. This last love relationship is a bit of a paradox. God has no “Need-Love“; therefore, we can offer Him nothing that is not already His. He has given us the ability to reject Him; therefore, since we can withhold ourselves, our wills, and our hearts from God, we can also give them to Him. Additionally, there is another way in which a Christian can give to God (Matthew 25:31-40, ESV).

 “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40, ESV)

This divinely inspired “Gift-Love“, is what the Greeks refer to as “agape“. This represents God’s love of man, man’s love of God, or man’s love of his fellow men.

  • God gives two other gifts to humanity: a supernatural “Need-Love” for Him and a supernatural “Need-Love” for other people.
  • Through grace, God turns our need for Him into a “Need-Love” for Him as we come to full recognition, sensible awareness, and complete acceptance of this Need.

 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” (Luke 18:13, ESV)

  • God also transforms our “Need-Love” for one another. We all want to be loved because we are lovable, but there is something in each of us that is not naturally lovable. It is when we are not loveable that we all need love from others. For example, take the story of the prodigal son:

“And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’” (Luke 15:21, ESV)

Although this is the type of love we most need, it is also the type of love we least want. In such cases, even though it is much harder, it is perhaps more blessed to receive than to give.

  • Relational Holiness

The relationships we have with God and others create the context for each moment of our lives.

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:22-23)

We can know that God, in Christ, relates to us.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)

And this is how we should relate to one another.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 4:5-11)

“To love someone is to desire and work toward their becoming the best version of themselves. The one person in all of the universe who can do this perfectly for you is God. He has no other agenda. He has no unmet needs that he is hoping you can help him with. And he knows what the best version of you looks like. He delighted in the idea of it, and he is already working on it. The apostle Paul said, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” [Romans 8:28] Which means God is at work every moment to help you become his best version of you.” [2]


[1] See the notes from our study of C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves.

[2]The Me I Want to Be. John Ortberg. Zondervan. Kindle Edition. (p. 27).

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