Y’all can all thank me later for that ear worm.
I was having a conversation with my sister the other evening and she asked if I’d read “that book about love wins”. I immediately started throwing titles and authors at her and she stopped and asked, “just how many books with love in the title are there?” Looking at just one shelf in my office, I have at least 3.
We talk a lot about love in ChurchLand and yet we all still get our feelings hurt and hurt others with our words and actions. Love isn’t supposed to do that, is it? I think the real issue is that we have so many different ideas and definitions about just what love is that a conversation about love doesn’t get us very far unless we first stop and ask “what do we mean by love”.
We say we love our family and we say we love our car and y’all know I love coffee. How can one word be used for our emotional response to both people and objects?
In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul gives us a list of what love is and isn’t and although we are all probably most familiar with this because it is often used at weddings, Paul isn’t talking about romantic love but about God’s divine love, the original source for the many ways we can love others. This agape love is unconditional and sacrificial. It active, seeking the best for and of others. Agape love is other-focused, not self-centered.
God doesn’t love us to get anything in return. God loves. Regardless of our behavior, God loves. God doesn’t change the way he loves because of the way we do or don’t love him. God loves. God always wants the best for and of us and God is always waiting to welcome us back home when we realize that our self-serving ways are really self-defeating.
This amazing agape Love means that we know that God loves us equally and that we will never love perfectly as God loves yet we do our best with each other and with God’s help.
Love means that I’m always going to try and give you the best of me. Love means that even if I don’t experience your best, I don’t wish harm upon you or say ugly things to you or about you to others (even disguised as a prayer request). Love means you may not be willing to put up with my behavior but you still want the best for and of me. Love means we will stand with each other as we face the consequences of our behavior.
Love is so much more that just an emotion, secondhand or otherwise. It is a many splendored thing. I can’t say that it’s all we need but it is the foundation of all that we do as we follow Jesus. We are, each and everyone of us, God’s beloved children. It is through us that others experience this amazing agape love so that they come to know they are beloved as well.
Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” (John 13:34-35, Common English Bible)
And, so, as we approach this season in which we together, intentionally, and with God seek growth and renewal, love has everything to do with it. Following Jesus is loving God, our neighbors, and ourselves with all that we are and all that we do and love is the mortar that binds us together as the building blocks of God’s kingdom on earth. Let’s show the world what love has to do with everything.