Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1
When we say that the love of God is eternal, that it lasts forever, we are saying more than how it extends for an infinite span of time. The eternal nature of the love of God also means that divine love lacks a culminating end, a finishing point where it will be done. In most everything we hope to arrive at some end, the goal we set out to achieve when we began. Our ordinary daily tasks, or even our attempts to grow in virtue and other such spiritual matters, are hardly conceivable except in terms of a purpose. We are always hoping for something gained, achieved, furthered, experienced, or reciprocated. Our love is inevitably offered for some desired goal rather than unending.
The love of God, which is lavished upon us and we want to learn to share with others, is a love without our type of purpose or goal. The love of God is not the means to some end, an objective that God has in mind. Instead, his love is endless selflessness. In this respect, God’s love is senseless, that is, it lacks reasonable logic for its existence. Though it is going nowhere, it is taking us and all of history somewhere. God’s love just is. It is love for the sake of love itself; God simply being God with no ulterior reason or motive.
There is no end to God’s love because God is not loving for a reason other than love itself, or to receive something in return from all he loves. Love is the essence of God’s self and what God does as God. Certainly, the love of God produces many results, such as healing us from our brokenness, but that is a result of love’s work and not the final purpose or end of love. Once we experience healing, the love of God continues for it has not accomplished a goal that now makes its existence irrelevant. Love without purpose, goal, sense, or tactical end is part of what we mean by the eternal love of God. Love is not God’s strategy, but God’s life.
Such a purposeless love is completely foreign to us and what we mean when we speak of God’s love being unconditional. We may talk constantly about God’s love, and should, but we struggle to grow into or even comprehend it. The eternal love of God, endless in simple selflessness, is profoundly nonsensical. When we keep loving in the face of discomfort, rejection, lack of appreciation, the apathy of others, personal disappointment, or outright hostility, we have an opportunity to take our love beyond the limits of purpose. But this is precisely the point at which we are tempted to give up on love because our love is accomplishing nothing. If we do give up, we were not loving with the love of God but as a strategy for some other objective. We were not loving for love’s sake, or for the sake of God.
Only our experience of hard, rewardless love reveals the love of God as grace. When we start to love with no goal in mind we begin to realize what the gospel proclaims, that God loves us endlessly, and that God’s love for us is not for some gain or advantage on God’s part. Hopefully, we become enthralled with a purposeless love, thoroughly unbelievable, but one which draws us in.
Paul can say confidently that “love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8). If divine love is trying to get me to love in return, it might indeed fail. I may not reciprocate love. But if the love of God is poured out for it’s own sake, then it cannot fail no matter what I do or do not do. Love is and will be who God is. This endless radiant selflessness is paradoxically accomplishing everything with no final goal other than being love.
When all things in heaven and earth are united in Christ (Ephesians 1:10) no end has come. The consummation of love’s unwounding of creation does not mean love has completed some purpose and is now finished. Instead, in that union of all creation the divine love will be even more pronounced, not finished. The nature of the purposeless, and therefore endless, love of God is that it cannot cease but only increase as more and more is brought into conformity with itself. This is the nature of divine love . . . and truly the love we need.