What is the meaning of life?
In a previous post, we said there are two answers, and we considered the first one. Now we turn our attention to the second answer.
This second answer, as you will remember, is about the means to the end of life. It is about the how.
If the first answer stated the end or goal (“to glorify God and enjoy him forever”), now we are wondering what does that actually look like day-to-day? How do I get there? Is there some central thing I should be doing? The Apostle Paul mentioned eating and drinking to the glory of God, but is that the central thing: eating and drinking? What is the meaning of life in terms of actual living and doing?
To get to this second answer, let’s go on a journey through scripture. This may take a minute, but the following scriptures will be worth your time. So read through them, and as you go, place your bet on what you think the second answer is.
Passage 1: 1 John 4:7-16
 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.  So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
Passage 2: Matthew 22:34-40
 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.  And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.  “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Passage 3: John 15:8-12
 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.  As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.  These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.  “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Okay, that was a lot. So let’s review what we just read.
1 John. First John chapter four is deeply profound. What he says there is worth extensive meditation. In these few verses we learn.
- Love is from God (1 John 4:7). The first cause of love is God himself. It is not the creation of mankind. It is not merely an evolutionary advantage. It is not a possession of the left or right in politics. It is not a human product that can be endlessly updated and redefined. It is from God. It belongs to Him.
- Loving is related to knowing God (1 John 4:7). If you knew God, you would love. If you love, you must know God. So there is no true theology or doctrine or dogma apart from love. If you’ve got great theology and little love, you don’t have great theology.
- God is love. Twice we are told this (1 John 4:8, 16)! So, now we understand in what sense love is from him. It’s not a created gift. It is from him in the sense that it issues forth from him as an expression of him. We might venture to say love is divine.
- God’s love for us is the beginning of the Gospel story (1 John 4:10). God doesn’t love you because Jesus came to die on the cross. Jesus was sent and voluntarily came to die on the cross because God loves you. His love is the impetus for the Gospel story.
- Loving others is related to God living in us and us living in him (1 John 4:12). If you’re obsessed with your personal spiritual devotions and you’re individual retreats into the woods or on a hike, and you feel that you have really come to abide in God through these exercises, and yet, you don’t love people, James says whatever you’re abiding in may not be as divine as you think.
Matthew. In Matthew, Jesus tells us…
- The greatest command is to love God back (Matthew 22:37). Loving God with all that we are – our heart, mind, soul, and strength – loving him with all we think and feel and say and do… this is the “how” of the end: “glorifying God.” How do we glorify God? By loving him in all that we are and do.
- The twin greatest command is to love others (Matthew 22:39-40). You can’t love God and not love others. God loves people, and if you love God, then you will love people like he does. Loving others captures the heart of all ethical instruction in the Law and the Prophets. This is the other part of the “how.” How do we glorify God? By loving people well. By loving people the way God would love them.
John. Then, in John 15, we see some of these same themes rewoven in a slightly different pattern…
- Discipleship is about love (John 15:8).
- Bearing fruit is connected to love (John 15:8).
- Joy is connected to living a life of love (John 15:11).
- Keeping his commands is about love (John 15:12).
So, have you guessed the second answer yet to the question of the meaning of life?
What is the meaning of life? Answer two: Love.
This answer does not contradict the first answer (glorifying God). It explains the how, the central way we go about it. How do we glorify God and enjoy him forever? We love. We love him, and we love the people he created, all of them.
By the way, even 1 Corinthians 10:31, the passaged we quoted previously (“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”) was spoken in the context of love. Paul was encouraging them to navigate the controversy with love and concluded with this statement about glorifying God in everything. So, in Paul’s mind, glorifying God and showing love are virtually synonymous. Life is all about love, to God’s glory!
This is why love feels like such a big deal. Because it is a big deal! Because it is at the core of all reality. This is why you can go to a wedding and have tears in your eyes for a couple you barely know as they take their vows. It’s because you’re not just an animal, some collection of cells and neurons firing; you’re made in the image of God, and at a wedding, you are bumping into the very fabric of the universe: love.
Want to know the grand, unifying theory of everything? Here it is: Love. This is why the Beatles observed, “You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs / I look around me and I see it isn’t so…” This is why a broken marriage overshadows any career success, and a good marriage trumps career mediocrity: Love is more important. This is why, in a sense, you really can live on love.
I just saw yesterday Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton tweet: “A Netflix binge is a temporary escape from languishing, not a cure. Passive engagement in a fictional world doesn’t offer a lasting sense of meaning, mastery, or mattering. Flourishing depends on active participation in the real world: creating, connecting, and contributing” (paragraphing mine). Right! “Active participation in the real world: creating, connecting, and contributing” is a way of describing Love!
The meaning of life is love. Love to the glory of God.
So, may we love God and love people. Love is what you were made for. Love is the meaning of life. Love is central in everything. Love is beautiful and excellent. Love is moving forward, and Love is the way forward. May we step into love.