When we think of love, we think of what Hollywood often shows us. Most romantic comedies follow the same formula. Some crazy dare or set of improbable circumstances or mistaken identity bring two very different people together. Then they get to know each other, and their obligatory odd friends and/or family. Next up is an argument about the need for honesty followed by a time of separation and silence, and finally a rush to the airport for a tear-filled reunion, followed by an uplifting soundtrack.
The reality of God’s love and the fantasy of worldly love are worlds apart, however.
I’ve been reading C.S Lewis’ Mere Christianity lately, and amongst its many quotable passages is this truth, in the chapter discussing marriage:
“The promise, made when I am in love and because I am in love, to be true to the beloved as long as I live, commits me to being true even if I cease to be in love. A promise must be about things that I can do, about actions: no one can promise to go on feeling in a certain way.”
He’s right, of course and it’s a truth rarely discussed. That selfless principle applies to all forms of love, not just romance. God calls us to a higher love. The Bible talks more often about phileo (friendship) love, and agape (unconditional) love than eros love (romance).
Love is more often a choice, not a feeling. It is not about us at all. Lewis goes on to say that if married couples only promised to love each other when they felt the warm, fuzzy feeling of love, then one or both partners would walk away after the first argument, or the possibility of a more seemingly attractive option. If we are driven only by feelings and impulses and whatever only brings us pleasure, then we will examine every person or circumstance with those strict, selfish parameters. A life led by feelings is flesh, not Spirit driven. It’s not a life that honours God with all that we have.
God showed Himself to the world in the form of Jesus Christ, and of all the things that Christ’s life showed us, how to love is at the top. 1 John 4:8 says it simply – God is love. That’s how God chose to represent Himself. He created love, He embodies love, He promotes love and He shows us how to love. It is impossible to learn to love in a way that He requires, until we first lean in to His love and let it cleanse us and realign our values and priorities. We only know what love is because He created it. The love we have in Him is far greater than feelings or infatuation or selfish pleasure.
Loving the way God does, and wants us to, costs. It is selfless and challenging and inconvenient, but it is also much more. It is victorious. It is life changing. It is empowering. May love be the motivation for all that we say, do and think. Is our love the same as His, or are we acting by what we’ve known as love from our past? With God we can love people, even strangers or enemies. We can love others, even when at that moment we may not particularly like them.
God’s love isn’t rational, in a worldly sense. Let’s face it, God’s overwhelmingly generous and gracious love doesn’t make sense to our sinful minds. He created the world and Adam and Eve, and us, because of love. He sent His Son to the cross because of love. Even when He disciplines us, it’s due to love. His love is a risk, and because of free will, there’s no guarantee that we will love Him back. We will never be worthy of such enormous love, but we must always be thankful for it, and never stop giving it, while expecting nothing in return. His love is the reward, and through that love, others can see Him through us.
Let Him redefine what we think love really is. God is love, and if we are His followers, so should we be. Let love in, and let love win.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
1 John 4:7-12
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God.”