For February 25, 2019
The word love conveys a number of meanings, although it essentially names an emotional attraction towards someone or something. We can love our jobs, houses, cars, classical music, pizza, baseball, and that old pair of comfortable jeans. This is not a new phenomenon since the Greeks distinguished parental love (Greek: storge) from fraternal love (Greek: phileo) from the passion between lovers (Greek: eros) as well.
But, Jesus Christ established a new form of love when He commanded His followers, in John 13:34-35, to love (Greek: agape) each other unselfishly—just as He loves us—so that others will know we belong to Him. This is the highest form of authentic, eternal, selfless, pure love that only comes from God. Such altruistic love; this “true love,” is completely free of selfishness; for death is the ultimate demonstration of true love, which the Lord Jesus Christ willingly performed for us at Calvary in order to redeem us.
In our human strength alone, we are incapable of expressing it because we want to know “What’s in it for us?” before we respond. Our attempts at expressing such “true love” have failed miserably since they often produce an exploitative, self-gratifying human expression directed towards a well-defined, homogenous group that has the ability to reciprocate in kind. Here, we seek to please ourselves while those people who are in need of our love in the form of human kindness and beneficence continue to go without our intervention.
It is easy to love people who reciprocate our benevolence and to avoid people who reject us. Relationships fail when we choose not to express the love that covers a multitude of offenses. Conflicts arise when we do not consider how the other person’s needs, wants and aspirations are just as important as our own.
The miracle of true love enables Christians to express genuine, meaningful affection towards other people—without regard to race, culture or class—so that even our enemies can benefit as the Lord teaches in Matthew 5:43-48:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Although difficult, we Christians can find the ability to express His love as we yield to His Spirit, who instinctively responds to others through us in ways that serve their best interests. His Spirit inside of us loves through us without selfish motives or thoughts of recognition or repayment.
When we express this Christ-centered, Spirit-driven love, we live rightly in the eyes of God and humanity. In God’s eyes, we are His children and fully capable of experiencing and emulating His glory. In the eyes of humanity, we are a brilliant reflection of God’s practical and tangible love, which emphatically proves that we belong to His Son, Jesus Christ.
True love enables us to extend mercy and forgiveness to the vile and unforgivable. We emulate God’s perfect love when we forgive others for intentional wrongdoings, show mercy instead of judgment even when we are wronged, and extend good will towards others especially when it is not expedient or it opposes conventional wisdom and/or public opinion to the contrary.
True love gives substance to our Christian witness and makes it more than mere rhetoric. We should never think that it is strange to experience and express a rare, pure, divine, and practical true love, because our Lord practiced it, and He is faithful to complete His perfect work in us and through us.