Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. – Lao Tzu
Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowance for human weaknesses. – Ann Landers
They do not love who do not show their love. – William Shakespeare
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive. – Dalia Lama
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:29-31
Several years ago, I facilitated a group discussion on Living Biblically in Contemporary Society. My intent was to create opportunities for dialog among a diverse group of Christians in our church on issues common in society then, and just as much today: immigration, gun control, sexual identity, climate change, race, and other topics on the societal radar. Our discussions were lively, and by no means did everyone agree on everything, which I expected. The underlying consideration was wrestling with how we could demonstrate a Christ-like ethos at every turn, not on reaching agreement about the rightness or wrongness of any given position.
The core of that ethos, as I see it, is found in John 3:16, one of the most referenced passages in the Bible: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This one statement leads me to this conclusion: Those who place their faith in GOD through Jesus Christ are to love what He loved and still loves, irrespective of whether we agree with the moral appropriateness of a social position, political stance, or behavior that is an outgrowth of an issue. Love does not equate to condoning everything that happens around us. If it did, any and all moral stances rooted in a desire to obey the GOD of the Bible would be meaningless.
I suspect that it would take the Library of Congress (or perhaps more) to house all of the quotes from notable people about our need for giving and receiving giving love. The kind of love the Apostle Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 13 comes immediately to my mind because of John 3:16, but not to the exclusion of romantic love or love of family members and friends. Paul’s description is special because it is all-encompassing and without condition, which makes it also rare. I view it as a key mile marker in “the race to win the prize for which GOD has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” that Paul speaks of Philippians 3:14.
To recap, here’s what Paul says this kind of love does and doesn’t do:
- It has a lot of patience and puts up with an awful lot
- It is kind
- It is not driven by ego
- It doesn’t act out
- It is not self-seeking
- It is hard to provoke
- It thinks the best of others, not the worst
- It takes no joy in wrongdoing
- It finds the truth to be a source of joy
- In the face of problems caused by others, it is never cynical
- It is always hopeful even when confronted with difficulty
Whenever I read the passage, I’m reminded that this is the love that GOD has for me, revealed in the life, death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. I’m also reminded that I’m called to have the same goal as the Apostle Paul, including loving GOD and my neighbor in this way, which is only possible through the ministry of GOD’s Holy Spirit working in me. If you’re unclear as to whom your neighbor is, review Luke 10:25-37 (Hint: GOD’s definition is pretty broad).
Because I live in the 21st century rather than the 1st, my natural tendency is to think that the possibility of loving like this is a distinctly and ridiculously naïve notion, i.e. it is impossible to give or to receive love this way because of the climate of competition between tribes, boundary protection (personal and group), the hoarding of resources for the sake of having a sense of security, and the gaining of power and influence (or, at least, aligning ourselves to the powerful and influential).
A friend once said our social climate today is really no different than what we see in street gang behavior, with each gang having its membership requirements, territories, identifiers, code words and signs. Although it seems to be increasingly amplified today, I think human history, since Adam’s sin in Eden, reveals that it has been this way since Cain’s jealousy of and subsequent destruction of Abel. If humanity has always been this way and continues to be this way, then the Lord’s admonition to love is the only counter force that can demonstrate another way…you might say The Way. Ironically, this is what Christianity was called before it was called Christianity.
This issue has been percolating in me for several months, prompted by a fresh hearing of Stevie Wonder’s, “Love’s In Need of Love Today.” Recorded in 1974 as one entry on his masterful Songs in the Key of Life double album, it speaks in a soul touching way, of the very serious, negative impacts on all of life occurring because of serious deficits of love. Stevie asks us to consider that love itself feels unloved, the very thing that some of the greatest thinkers in history, including the Greatest, say is essential to our being. Love feels unloved! How messed-up is that?
To choose not to love is downward devolution from what humanity is supposed to be. To choose not to love is to deny the need for godliness. To reject love by not loving is to reject GOD Himself, for He is love (1 John 4:8). This is not Hallmark sentimentality; this is the Word of GOD in all of its weight and glory.
If, as Stevie Wonder sings, love is need of love today, perhaps we who carry the name “Christian” need to submit ourselves to the examination light of GOD’s Word and Spirit, and the example of His only begotten Son. We need to make sure that we are not in the way of what He wants to accomplish in us and through us, but in The Way.
© Byron L. Hannon, 2018. All rights reserved for textual content.
If you’ve never heard Stevie’s song before, here’s a clip: