I live in the city of Philadelphia, and one day I was eating at the Reading Terminal Market, a great American food emporium. Walking up and down the aisles debating over what I would enjoy most, I realized that I shared something in common with everyone else: We were all searching for something to satisfy the cravings of our stomach.
Besides our hunger, though, the crowd didn’t share many similarities. We came from a variety of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. We had different occupations, we spoke different languages and we wore different clothes. But we were united in our quest for delicious food!
I. CRAVING LOVE
That got me thinking: Other than food, what do all of these people have in common? The answer came quickly: Each one of us was hungry, not only for food, but for love.
The young couple, shooting flirty glances at one another, wanted to be loved. The old man, walking slowly with his cane, wanted to be loved. The mother, trying to corral her children, wanted to be loved, and so did her kids. The cashier behind the counter, frustrated by the customer’s picky demands, wanted to be loved, and so did his customer.
It was a crowd of nameless people, all gathered in pursuit of culinary delights. At first glance, it looked like a diverse clash of cultures, colors, sounds and smells. But really, we were all just people. And what do people want deep in their hearts? They hunger to be loved.
The desire to be loved is one thing that separates human beings from the rest of creation. We’re deeply emotional and deeply social human beings. By the Creator’s wise design, we weren’t structured to be alone. God said it himself in Genesis 2:18—”It is not good that the man should be alone.”
We were created to be connected, to be dependent, to be communicative and to be together. We were designed to give and receive a whole variety of love: familial love, marital love, brotherly love, parental love, community love, body of Christ love, friendship love, neighborly love and more.
Love is the foundation of humanity.
II. BROKEN LOVE
There was something else I realized that day about all these people in the market. Many of them, if not all, were walking around with bruised and broken hearts. They had experienced love, but in a broken form.
There were those who had never found true love, and there were those who fled from a love gone wrong. Some experienced a love that died, while others still lived in a dysfunctional love but didn’t know how to fix it.
There were those who told themselves they didn’t need to be loved, but in their quiet moments, they didn’t believe it. There were others so badly bruised by love that they would never open their hearts to it again. And there were still more who would do just about anything to hear someone say to them, “I love you.”
If you have lived for just a short period of time with any sense of awareness, you won’t need a blog post to tell you this: Love is at once the sweetest and the saddest of human experiences.
But whether we recognize it or not, even if we experienced human love in perfection and to the fullest, our hunger for love would still exist.
III. HORIZONTAL LOVE
The problem with human love isn’t just that human love is broken. We know it is—we’ve been on both the giving and receiving end of broken love. More significantly, human love is horizontal. Horizontal love—in other words, given between people—was never designed to give the human heart the peace, satisfaction and rest that it craves.
Though horizontal human love will never satisfy our hunger, it has a very significant role to play in the ultimate contentment that we seek. Human love was designed by God to be a signpost that points us to the one love that has the power to give our heart the satisfaction it longs for.
Two biblical examples come to mind. First, Ephesians 5. The Apostle Paul spoke about marriage as a picture of a more foundational and satisfying love—that is, the love that Christ has for us, his church.
Another example is John 17. Jesus prays that the loving unity of his followers would point those who are watching to the love of God that caused him to send his Son on that sacrificial mission of rescuing and forgiving love that is the hope of humanity.