Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen. [1 Corinthians 13:7-8a (PHILLIPS)]
“I love you,” said my grandson to his mother; “I love you more,” was her quick reply. They went back and forth, each claiming to love the other most, until one said, “I love you to the moon and back!” Of course, they’re echoing the sentiments found in Sam McBratney’s delightful book Guess How Much I Love You. In it, every time Little Nutbrown Hare tells his father how much he loves him, Big Nutbrown Hare responds with an even larger amount of love. As he’s being tucked into his bed of leaves, the sleepy youngster thinks he’s finally out-distanced his dad when he says he loves him all the way to the moon. His father kisses him goodnight and, with a smile, whispers, “I love you right up to the moon—and back!” Since the moon’s distance varies with its orbit, the distance to the moon and back varies from around 443,362 to 505,244 miles. Even that measurement, however, isn’t correct; we can no more quantify a father’s love for his son than we can our Heavenly Father’s love for His children.
While we have only one word for love in English, the Greeks had four: eros, storge, philia and agape. Because of its similarity to the word erotic, we think of eros in terms of sex and lust but it also includes romantic love and passion, like the love we find in Solomon’s sensual Song of Songs. Storge describes the natural affection (and obligation) between family members, such as Ruth’s love for Naomi. The Greek word philia is associated with deep friendship, like that between Paul and Silas or the Apostles. In Romans 12:10, Paul uses another word for love: philostorgos. A compound word made from storge and philia, it’s best defined as loving a friend as deeply as if he were a family member, such as the love Jonathon and David had for one another. Finally, we have agape: God’s immeasurable, consummate, unconditional, sacrificial love for His children.
Our infinite God has an unlimited amount of love for his children. Just as we can’t measure God’s love for us, I don’t think any word, even agape, can truly describe the kind of love He has for us. Not one of us is like another and, with our individual personalities, God loves each one of us in a way specifically designed for us. Love knows no bounds and, just as God has an infinite amount of love, He has an infinite number of ways to express that love. We can’t quantify, evaluate, assess, or delineate that love because something infinite can’t be weighed, measured, or catalogued.
The Population Reference Bureau estimates that over 108 billion people have lived on earth since the beginning of man and it would seem that God has found at least 108 billion ways to love them. While that’s not infinity, it’s way more than to the moon and back and God is not yet finished. His infinite love is eternal!
God loves each of us as if there were only one of us. [Saint Augustine]