I've heard it said that there are some people who believe that the Christian Story is all about love, whereas it has very little to do with love, and instead it is a story about God's Kingdom. I've heard other similar comments that have made me wonder if we are wrong to desire some type of experience we can feel in our walk with Christ. Is it man-centered to spend some moments thinking about how loved we are by God?
It's hard to miss God's love throughout the Bible. The word itself may not be frequently used throughout the Old and New Testament, but how else can we explain the motive behind the manner God created us in such a way as to have a unique intimate relationship with his creatures? It is true that there is more to this Christian Story than love. There is indeed a King establishing His Kingdom on earth and in our hearts. However, lately I've been thinking: why can't the Christian Story be both about God's Kingdom and the King's love.
Love is a theme that does come up throughout the Bible, most notoriously when Jesus was asked what is the greatest command in the Law, to which Jesus' response was: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40 NIV). Jesus' highlighted that love was of most importance when obeying God's commands.
Jesus also brings up love when he was asked how a man can be born again, which he replied: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16 NIV). We can see how we are to live according to the example God models for us which is that He loves, and He is even identified as love in 1 John 4:8: "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." We do not have a cold relationship with our King in His Kingdom, where we only obey out of obligation and our hearts are not involved in the process. It is a result of knowing about His own love for us, that we desire to love Him in return through our obedience.
We can also observe how God created us capable of feeling all kinds of feelings within what we call our 'hearts'. Although love is demonstrated to God through our actions, we can also feel this love and experience a joy not found anywhere else. We can smile when we consider how significant we are to our loving God, while we may actually lean more towards believing we are actually quite insignificant and undeserving of God's love. We can be in awe when we consider how the King saved His creatures through His Son's sacrifice and through our faith in Him. There is an experience to be felt with the knowledge of the full story of our King and His Kingdom. The King requires love in return because He has loved us first: "We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19 NIV). He created us in such a way that we would have all that we need to live this life here on earth in Him and in His love.
When we focus on the full story, and how it is first and foremost about Him, we cannot ignore the great love within that story of this King toward His creatures and the love that is commanded in return. The measures He has taken throughout history with His creatures can only be explained as motivated by His own love. This is why I think something should not be labeled as "man-centered" when it is taught to us in Scripture. Lets instead embrace the love story found within the Christian Story of our King and His Kingdom.