When we say, with the author of 1 John, that "God is Love," what do we mean by this? According to this text, if taken quite literally, it is not simply that God loves whom God chooses to love, but God's essence is love. It is a divine attribute, just like omnipresence, et al. So what does this mean, especially as it regards God's relationship with humanity?
First we start with a definition of love and I have found Tom Oord's basic definition to be quite useful in this regard.
To love is to act intentionally, in sympathetic/empathetic response to God and others, to promote overall well-being. (Oord, Nature of Love, p. 17).
From this basic definition he suggests that love exists in three forms, in spite of love (agape), because of love (eros), and alongside of love (philia).
Now the question is -- does God love us of necessity or does God chose to love? Tom Oord suggests that if God is love, then God must love of necessity. Now some would say, yes God loves within the Trinity (that was Augustine's view) but God does not of necessity love the creation. Oord, however, making use of the Hebrew statements about chesed (see Ex. 34:6; Ps. 136), God's steadfast or everlasting love, suggests that "the God whose love for creation is everlasting and endures forever must be the God who necessarily and essentially loves creatures" (Oord, p. 130).
It is in this sense that we can say that God's love is unconditional. Oord writes:
God essentially loves creation, because God's essential nature includes love for the world. If God's nature did not include love for creation, Christian appeals to God's unconditional love would be baseless. (Oord, p. 133).
So, my questions are, based on what Oord has written, does God love us of necessity? And what does that mean?