Outbound Love

By New Christian Bible Study Staff

A nice mother-daughter hug.

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.

From Swedenborg's Works


True Christian Religion #43

Study this Passage

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There are two things which make up the essence of God - love and wisdom; but there are three which make up the essence of His love - loving others than oneself, wishing to be one with them, and devoting oneself to their happiness. The same three make up the essence of His wisdom, because, as I have shown above, love and wisdom are one in God. It is love which wills these things, wisdom that puts them into effect.

[2] The first essential, loving others than oneself, is to be recognised in God's love towards the whole human race. On this account God loves everything He has created, because they are the means to an end, and if you love the end, you must love the means. Everyone and everything in the universe are other than God, because they are finite and God is infinite. God's love goes out and extends not only to good people and things, but also to evil people and things; consequently, not only to people and things in heaven, but also to people and things in hell, not only to Michael and Gabriel, but also to the Devil and Satan. For God is everywhere and from eternity to eternity the same. He says too that He makes His sun rise upon the good and the evil, and sends rain upon the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). But it is the fault of evil people and things that they are evil, because they do not receive God's love as it is, and as it most inwardly is, but as they are. It is the same as a thorn or a nettle receiving the heat of the sun or the rain.

[3] The second essential of God's love, wishing to be one with others, is to be recognised also in His linking Himself to the heaven of angels, the church on earth, to everyone in it, and to every good and truth which compose and make up men and the church. Love regarded in itself is nothing but a striving to be linked. Therefore to realise this essential of love God created man in His image and likeness, so that he could be linked with this. It is clear from the Lord's words that the Divine Love has linking as its constant aim, when He says that He wishes to be one with them, He in them and they in Him, and that the love of God might be in them (John 17:21-23, 26).

[4] The third essential of God's love, to devote Himself to the happiness of others, is to be recognised in everlasting life, which is blessedness, bliss and happiness without end, which He gives to those who receive His love into themselves. For God, just as He is Love itself, is also blessedness itself. For every love breathes out an aura of joy from itself, and the Divine Love breathes out the very height of blessedness, bliss and happiness for ever; so God makes the angels and men after death happy from Himself, which He does by being linked with them.

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Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.