What About Love? part 1
Recently, I have been considering the power of love—not the old Huey Lewis and the News song—but the real 1 Corinthians 13 stuff. The more I’ve focused on it the more amazing the revelation is becoming. I encourage you to join me in this relook at love.
First a couple of disclaimers: Love is a really big topic in the Kingdom and in the Scriptures. As such, I am finding that there is more to it than
- a) we normally talk about, and
- b) I could hope to write or teach about with any sense of exhausting the richness of the topic.
So having admitted that, I still think it is worth tackling. I will try to keep each of these posts brief and focused on one or two points. Hopefully, by the end (Ahhhhh…will there ever really be an end to thinking about and discussing love in light of 1 Corinthians 13:13?) the time and discussion will have been worth it, and our view and interaction with love will be bigger and better than it is today.
Here is the apostle Paul’s 1 Corinthians 13 articulation of love:
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…
Even a surface reading of this love-definition reveals a pretty desirable relational environment. It contains both being stuff and doing stuff. It touches on a lot of big areas such as acceptance, failure, image, hope, judgment, and long-term relationships. Important stuff to be sure.
If I imagine people thinking and behaving this way about and toward me, it obviously suggests a relationship I would enjoy. More than enjoy, I believe I would feel safe in it. I think that is why so many people are constantly on the lookout for love—the desire to be connected in a relationship where they feel accepted, valued, and safe. I find no fault in that, although I am saddened that the relationships we find or create on our hunt for love too often lead to disappointment after the fact.
That thought leads me to my most common (I’m in the process of repenting of this thinking, but that is a story for another post.) personal go-to interpretive lens: reading love’s definition as a guide—or even a command—on how I am to offer myself to others. It still feels desirable, but now it carries a significant amount of pressure. If I can just love right and enough I can be a part of changing the world—Yay! I can help all the love-hunters find what they are looking for without that ugly disappointment hounding us. Like I said, this view brings along just a wee bit of pressure! Why? The reason is obvious—I simply don’t think and act with love all the time. Dwelling too much on this unfortunate but candid reality leads me to disappointment—in this instance, before the fact.
In both the cases above, disappointment in the face of something as obviously beautiful as love seems to be too common a result. Clearly, that is a bummer. Obviously, love—whatever it is—isn’t designed to be a source of chronic disappointment. I believe overcoming the disappointment alone—too often associated with our thoughts about love—makes it worth taking a fresh look at it.
So, if we aren’t going to look at love only through the lens of how we get treated and treat each other how can we look at it? Let’s start by considering the likelihood that how we are treated and how we treat one another is probably more of a byproduct of love than love itself? I think a closer reading of 1 Corinthians 13 gives us permission to approach it this way. Consider this passage leading up to the definition we cited above:
I Corinthians 13:1-3:
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
OK, I took the liberty of emphasizing two words in that passage. Do you see them?
In both the first two ways I thought about love, it was something done (either to me or by me). In this passage Paul seems to operate with the view that love wasn’t basically something a person did or didn’t do it was something a person had or didn’t have.
Wow! What if our fresh look shifted toward getting and keeping love rather than doing love?
I think that would change a lot.
First of all, not having something is way different that being rejected/neglected/victimized by someone, and/or feeling guilty of being a big rejecter/neglecter/victimizer of others (and isn’t that how not being loved or not loving someone feels?). In this case of doing or being done to, there’s not much you can do about it except escape, bear up under it, or cynically explain it away. On the other hand, if it is a matter of having or not having something, well, that’s a different story altogether. At least you can try to find out where you get whatever you need, and then go get some.
I admit that may be a rather simplistic analysis, but it might also turn out to be the simple truth. I’m betting on the latter. I hope that recognizing love as something we need to get or receive—then live in an abiding possession of—is a much more straightforward strategy to consistently experience love’s beauty and power. It has to be better than constantly putting ourselves and others under all kinds of pressure to love better—whatever that is.
So that’s it for part-one of this relook at love. Among all Paul says love is, it seems first and foremost to be something we either have or don’t have, not just something we do. Since love is a thing we can have, that raises some logical questions:
- What is love? (we talked about that a bit with the citation of 1 Corinthians 13:3-8 but this question deserves a bit more discussion since we have determined that it is more than just a way we behave toward one another.)
- Where is it? (Or, from where, or from whom can we get it?)
- How can we know–and what should we expect–when we have it?
I am looking forward to digging into the answers to these questions in subsequent parts of this post. I’m working on the first question right now. Until then…
Have some love!