Love is the most supremely important thing in the world, isn’t it? We write songs about it, lay awake at night longing for it, strategize ways of obtaining it; but it’s true nature and purpose remain elusive and counter-intuitive to most of us.
Love is largely misunderstood. Billboards, media & music tend to cast it as romantic or sexual. Self-help pundits and counselors promote it as prescriptive and therapeutic to our emotional ailments. Celebrities and the popular elite hijack it and give it to their rich and beautiful friends, creating blissful relational destinations in a virtual-reality free of the plight of those who have less.
Most Americans don’t understand love because we’ve listened to the wrong voices. This is why we get caught-up in vain pursuits that don’t produce what we’re looking for. We’re saturated by images and narratives that make bold promises but deliver loneliness and disillusionment. This is why so many end-up disappointed, dejected, and discouraged…believing that love has failed them. I would say that it was not love that they were seeing & seeking, but only mirages that left them thirsty.
When we chase the wrong things, we end-up in unforeseen places where we do not belong. Each of us is created by our Heavenly Father – who IS LOVE – for love… but we’re constantly being deceived and drawn-away from it by misleading counterfeits. So what is love? To find it, we have to forget everything the world has taught us, so that we can rediscover what God says it is. Here are some examples from my favorite paraphrase of the Bible, called “The Message”:
“Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.” (1 Corinthians 13)
“My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, “Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!” and either ignore the street person or say, “Better sit here in the back row,” haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted? Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name—“Christian”—used in your baptisms? You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: “Love others as you love yourself.” But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it. You can’t pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God’s law and ignoring others.” (James 2)
”My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. And friends, once that’s taken care of and we’re no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we’re bold and free before God! We’re able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we’re doing what he said, doing what pleases him. “ (1 John 3)
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” (Matthew 5)