This time of year, Valentine’s Day stirs up the often misunderstood concept of “love.” The English language is kind of silly when it comes to the word “love.” We love baseball, apple pie, the flag and our mother. I’m sure people who are trying to learn the English language find that awfully confusing.
Other languages like Greek, the original language of the New Testament of the Bible, use several different words for love: eros, phileo, and agape are just a few. In 1 Corinthians 13, the King James Bible of 1611 translated one of the Greek words for love, to be “charity.” At the end of the book of John, two different Greek words are translated into the same word “love.” It’s a shame the Bible translators were limited in their ability to communicate the depth of the original Greek. They were handicapped by our English language.
English speaking people have lost the depth of the meaning love. Emotion fueled, sexual passion and lust are the words I describe what others might call “love.” But I dare not think that way about apple pie. I can have a preference for apple pie over cherry pie and a particular enjoyment when the sweet taste tickles my tongue, but it really isn’t emotional love.
What kind of love should we be striving toward then? Jesus said to love God and love people (Matthew 22:37-39). When Jesus spoke these words, He tied two commands together into one statement, drawing a picture of our vertical relationship with God and our horizontal relationships with others. In doing so, Jesus tied our ability to have meaningful relationships with people, to the strength of our relationship with God. They are interchangeable. You can’t have one without the other.
Here’s where we can miss the boat, if we don’t think the way Jesus commands. Many relationships are built upon an idea of a 50/50 partnership. If one person performs certain actions, then the other person in the relationship should perform an equal action. The same holds true, when one stops performing, the other gets upset and stops as well. I think this is why many people change relationships as often as they change jobs. Whenever their expectations are not met, they quit their “partnership.” This is also why many people fall out of relationship with God. I hate to be the one to tell you, God is not our “partner.”
If you are like me, I often find it hard to love certain people. If I choose to step outside of my own emotions and see people the way God sees them, I can at least stay civilized around them. When I feel my love for someone waning, I sometimes remember the powerful verse from John 13:34, where Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” And what is the love that Jesus speaks about? Jesus said in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
What if you saw someone running into the street, into the path of a speeding truck? Would you push them out of the way, save their life and take the hit? I may do that for a family member, but for a stranger? What if they were carrying your TV? Would you still die to save them? Jesus did.
Here’s the short and swift answer: we should love others the way Jesus loves us – sacrificially.
Recently I helped someone in a special way. They did not do anything to deserve my favor and I did not ask for anything in return. I just did it. The question came out “why are you doing this?” The answer, “I want you to succeed.”
This kind of love is often described as “grace” or “undeserved favor.” This is what sets Christians apart. Soak up this statement from Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Even though I was (and still am) a messed up human being, God still loves me - unconditionally. Even before I wandered from the path of righteousness, God had made a new path of reconciliation, a path bathed in the blood of sacrificial love, a path in the shape of a cross.
Love the way God loves. Amen? (or ouch
Pastor Jay Merritt
Pastor Jay Merritt writes about God in every day observations.