Some time ago I took a phone call from a regional newspaper regarding the nature of love. The conversation gave consideration to the contrast between biblical love and the so-called “love” that is portrayed in movies like 50 Shades of Grey. To that I simply pointed out that love is about giving, while 50 Shades “love” is really not love at all, but raw lust, and is about nothing more than taking.
Of course, this conversation got me thinking still more about the nature of love, and then, as I am want to do, I correlated this to the many moving parts of our church family and ministry in general. As I reflected on biblical love four things began to fall into my mind.
First, real, biblical love requires a profound measure of patience. It takes time to give way to fullness, to be realized in whatever environment it is being manifested. In many ways it works like a constant, nagging dripping of water. One drip at a time, over time finally does give way to a measurable pool of water. But this pool does not come immediately. Therein is the challenge. Too often I . . . we . . . want to just give up and quit trying to love that person or those people or such and such environment. But we have to remember that the hesed love of God, revealed throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and personified in the person of Jesus, is a loyal, long-suffering kind of love. In a phrase: hang in there!
Secondly, real, biblical love necessitates intentionality. We must never waver in our appreciation that our Heavenly Father took the initiative with redemption, moving toward us with love, sending his only-begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be the Savior of sinners. This is the premier example or model to us regarding intentional love. Too many of us wish to wait for another to move toward us with love or trust or grace or whatever is fitting for the context. But we need to be the ones to make the first move. We need to be the ones to step forward. If there is a need for trust in any given context, it begins with me. I need to gift trust. If there is a need for love to be displayed in any given context, it beings with me. I need to gift the loyal, long-suffering love of the Father into whatever world I find myself. I must be proactive. I must be intentional. It starts right here, with me.
Thirdly, real biblical love is messy. The fact is I loathe this aspect of God’s lovingkindness. I wish for everything to be neat and tidy and orderly. I want relationships and healing and grace to unfold on my schedule. I want things to be convenient, to cost very little (just enough for me to feel invested but not enough for me to hurt). I want love to be well-received and then given away in abundance. I want people to get it, whatever that means, and when they do not I too easily feel affronted. Shame on me. The reality is folks might think I am being patronizing, might think I have an agenda, might think I am setting them up. I might give love to another and it be dismissed. I might give love to another and, in actuality, do so hurtfully or without grace. The manifestation of biblical love may be messy. It is a profound relief to offer permission for it to be so. It really, truly, takes a lot of pressure off of my expecations from others, and my expectations of myself. In a word, it helps me . . . love.
Lastly, real biblical love is other-centered. This detail is all-important. True love is, as referenced above, about giving and not taking. It is about selflessness, offering unconditional grace; expecting nothing in return. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son,” knowing full well that too many would not love him in return, yet he still gave everything; gave his very best. If I use love as a tool for receiving something in return then I am not really loving. Love is about others. And if it is about others then I am entering into the context of genuine humility and grace. In effect, I am getting so much closer to being Christ-like.
Perhaps these reflections on biblical love are timely for you today. Love requires patience, intentionality, a willingness to get a bit messy, or even a lot messy, and a commitment to being other-centered. If you and I are willing to embrace these realities, and let them shape our relationships, whatever those might be, then we are embodying true, biblical, Christ-like, hesed love.
And the impact, over time, will be monumental.