Perhaps the most sought after and illusive word in the English language is love. Musicians pine for it. Authors write about it. In many ways we all long to experience it in its truest form. But what is love? Is it a relationship… a feeling… an action or attitude? The answer is likely… yes! Even (especially) Christians have desired to un-define and re-define this overused and misunderstood word. So, what of it? In what way(s) should our lives be characterized by this emotion and/or attitude?
In the near future I would like to take the words of 1 Corinthians 13 and more carefully analyze the far-reaching implications of love. For this post let’s focus on love as a general, overarching attitude. It is my opinion that there is no singular defining characteristic that has more ability to affect people than love. In John 13, Jesus said as much, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
I have a little sticker on the outside of my laptop that has been a huge conversation starter (particularly in Starbucks). It simply says, “love wins”. Just this past week a smiley young man stopped by my table on his way out the door and said, “I definitely like this God better than the one that was presented to me in church as I was growing up.” He went on to tell me that he was re-reading Rob Bell’s book entitled Love Wins. And while there is some great stuff in that offering, there are also some very dangerous assumptions. In fact, this is part of the discussion about love. Is love (as a concept) all warm and fuzzy and kittens and bunnies and, in the end, everybody gets in?… speaking of heaven.
Anne Lamott says, “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” I would contend that the same is true in reverse. It works equally well with your assumptions about the nature of love.
The love that the Bible talks about defies our human understanding. The love of the Scriptures walks two miles when someone demands that you walk one. Bible love marries a prostitute because God says this will give people far from me a picture of how much I care for them. The love acted out in the pages of the Bible is unlike any modern version that we can write. It is beyond. It transcends reason. It is other.
So, as a friend asked me recently as I was suggesting this kind of love in a tough situation, “How would this flesh out?” I think it’s only fair to talk about biblical love in the spirit of what the Scriptures say. This is where it gets frustrating for many people. I think we hear a word like love and want to open a holy dictionary and find out what fits into that word and what does not. I am increasingly certain that it rarely works that way. Instead Bible love is demonstrating the spirit of Jesus in and around the circumstances of life.
It may mean being the good Samaritan. It may mean speaking a hard truth (like Jonah did). I am convinced that as we seek to follow Jesus, the way of love will most often be the way of humility. This fits both “sides” of the discussion. If I am bringing a hard truth because of love… I do it humbly and gently. If I am coming with encouragement or grace I do it with humility… realizing that in and of myself, I have nothing to give. This is in keeping with the spirit and attitude of biblical love.