It seems strange to wonder what a God who refers to himself as love would love. Then again, as I understand the faith, a little bit of wonder is a good thing.
And so I wonder if it would be best to say first that he loves all that he has made, from the mountains and valleys to the little fishies at the bottom of the sea. I wonder if it would be best to start off by reflecting on the way the heavens describe the glory of God. He has to love them, at least on that account, I would imagine.
And I wonder if it would be better to start off with the fact that God loves the people he has made, lived for, died for, went to hell for, rose to new life for, ascended to heaven for, and waits to come back for. I wonder if the church would be a good starting point in a conversation about what God loves.
The more I wonder though, the more my mind is drawn to the love that is more ancient than the stars. The love of God is more basic than the creation of Adam and Eve. The affections of God reach back before history and bear witness to the first love of the divine.
In the simplest of terms, God first loves God.
When I came across this idea for the first time, it sounded arrogant. How can God love himself before he loves anything else? I have pictured, at times, a divine vanity mirror. It is an interesting thought, but it never really does much for me.
Over the years, though, I have come to see two really good reasons for God to love himself.
1. God Exists in Community
To say that God loves himself first and foremost begins to make perfect sense when we take the personhood of Father, Son, and Spirit seriously. God presents himself as three persons in one being, or one essence. We can see this as early as the creation of the world, when God has counsels with himself as to the invention of man. Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. The story of history is written by one God, living in pure bliss- the Father loving the Son, the Son adoring the Father, and the Spirit binding them together in perfect unity.
When we say that God loves God, he loves not so much as looking into a mirror as looking across a table. His love seems to be more of an embrace than it does anything else.
2. God is Loveable
The most surprising aspect of the story of God is that he loves the un-loveable. He chose Jacob over Esau, David over his slough of more capable brothers- not to mention the Olympian-like Saul. He paints pictures of himself as a shepherd who leaves ninety-nine good sheep to chase after one stupid, wayward ball of fluff that had wandered into the brush, and a father who embraces his lost son who is caked in pig…well, you know. God seems to be ever-captivated by the most despicable of characters, but at the bottom of all the radically illogical love of God lies a love that, for once, makes perfect sense.
It makes perfect sense for God to love God. Here is where we see him making a completely rational decision that, for once, we can understand. After all, who could fault the Father for delighting in the obedience of Jesus? Or Jesus for loving his Father before he loves us? Or the Spirit for working with all his energy to bring attention, focus, praise (or, to use a theological word, glory) in the direction of Jesus?
Would you trust a God whose primary delight was based on your work, on your achievement, or on your good looks? Honestly, would you have faith in God through the hardest of times if you thought the sun of his happiness rose and set with you?
God loves God. This is the best news we could receive.
And I wonder what the expansiveness and security of his self-love means for us.