Love, yes love, that great perplexing mystery. Love, given to us by God from on high and brought low and dragged through the mud, perverted by the devil. We all seek to be loved, and to love, yet we demonstrate profoundly that we have no real frame of reference for what love really is.
We love tacos. We love it when the radio plays our favorite song. We love sunny weather. We love our parents. We love our pets. We love those stupid cat memes. We love getting things. We love the idea of love. Often, what we claim to love, we despise in all practical ways, until it suits us to show love. We have a genuine and desperate need for love and so we search it out wherever circumstances, or Hollywood, tells us we can find it. Love, grossly miscommunicated through neglect or abuse, is driving people in droves to seek refuge in unnatural substitutes.
Love has become, in so many ways, synonymous with sex. We speak of love when what we really mean is lust. It’s as though we have bought the lie that the greatest expression of love is intercourse. Yet even this intimate exchange has been reduced to an animal act — little more than an instinct that must be satisfied. This is the muddied, perverted, misguided counterfeit of love — this lust is — which has poisoned our hearts against each other and reduced precious human souls to little more that objects to be used, or killed, in the name of pleasure or convenience.
It is said that there is no stronger bond than that between mother and child. I don’t know that in our myopic world this is very true anymore, but a good case could be made that this is generally so. Even in nature, a mother will risk her own life in defense of her young. Is this love? God has lavished love, the full expression of that love is embodied in the life, ministry, and death of Jesus, the Son of God. He remained, for his brief life, celibate; and yet he loved perfectly. Jesus lacked no good thing because he received the love of the Father, and loved — even those who least deserve it — perfectly. So, if sex is not the pinnacle, the perfect expression of love then what is? Sacrifice.
Parents make great sacrifice in their efforts to give their children a better life. Husbands and wives make sacrifices of time, talent, and treasure for the good and good pleasure of their spouse. If this is not so, then it is safe to say, it is not love. Love is the great motivator. It is for love of family, friends, and neighbors — for love of freedom — that soldiers will endure harsh conditions and mind altering experiences, even sacrificing their own lives, to defend and protect. It is for love that the mother sacrifices her body, her wits, and her vitality for the sake of her children. Even the lover of self is willing to sacrifice, and sacrifice others, to get what they want. We love that for which we will give of ourselves.
Love is willing to be mistreated. Love will endure accusation, ridicule, and neglect. Love is willing to endure great pain, for in this it proves that it is genuine, selfless, sincere … it proves that it is love. Love lifts the lover above everything for the sake of the loved. Love does not discriminate. We get confused, and our enemy delights in this, because we have genuine love for people — even of the same gender — and we wrongly assume that this love must culminate in some physical manifestation or expression, and so we pervert it and buy lust rather than live in love. We chase the counterfeit and empty our soul.
We are commanded to love. In this command we must realize that the emotion of love is only the shadow of the substance of love. Love is patience, kindness, humility, mercy, generosity, selflessness, honesty, and hopeful. It is an intentional attitude which desires the absolute best for another at any cost. Even at the expense of one’s own reputation — the laying down of our life, either literally or metaphorically, as we lay aside our hopes, dreams, fears, ambitions, and aspirations for the sake of another. If we cannot do that, we do not love.
Love must be received before it can really be given. God is love, he is the source of it and love is the very essence of his person. He first loved us so that we might know love and be healed and filled. At no other time have we needed to know true love more than now. Our world, and the people in it, have been overcome by insatiable lust, and with it, an overwhelming despair. To the people of God: Love. The world needs to know a love that is willing to be mistreated so that others would know the truth. To the broken: look to Jesus and know what real, life-giving love looks like.