It's really nice to be loved. Can you remember when your Dad tousled your hair, or your Mom read you a story while you curled up next to her? Or when your sweet daughter smiled at you? We love that inbound love. It's such a good feeling.
And... we need outbound love, too. You've heard the old adage, "It's better to give than to receive". It's a great feeling to be able to love someone else, and to try to make them happy. What are the roots of that need? Is it coming from a spiritual origin?
So... get out your Bibles, and let's have a look! Does the Lord "do" outbound love?
Psalm 23 is a good place to look:
"Surely goodness and lovingkindness shall follow me all the days of my life; And I shall dwell in the house of Jehovah for ever."(Psalm 23:6)
Here's another nice excerpt, showing the tenderness of the Lord's love - from the story when people bring children to see Jesus:
"And he took them in his arms, and blessed them, laying his hands upon them."(Mark 10:16)
This passage from Matthew, illustrates the point, too:
"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"(Matthew 7:11)
Here's another good one:
"Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is begotten of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love."(1 John 4:7-8)
And one more - another one that's deeply embedded in our culture:
"A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another."(John 13:34)
When you gather up passages like these, and think hard about it, it seems pretty clear that God is the wellspring of outbound love. In His essence, He is love itself. And love flows.
Here's an interesting excerpt from one of Swedenborg's theological works:
"...there are three things which make the essence of His Love, namely, to love others..., to desire to be one with them, and to make them happy... (True Christian Religion 43)
If love is like this for God, is it like this for us, too? It would make sense. In the Word, in the very first chapter, the creation story has this:
"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" (Genesis 1:26),
and in verse 27, that 'making' is done... and then in verse 31,
"And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good."
So, knitting this thesis together, here's what we get:
1) God is full of love. In a sense, He IS love.
2) He loves others outside of Himself (outbound love), wanting to be conjoined with them, and to help them be happy.
3) And we're made in His image and likeness.
Small wonder that outbound love is so important to us.