Talking About Love…

love-animated-gif-2018-39Valentine’s Day stokes our conscience about love—namely, the romantic kind. Go to any store, link to any site, read any ad, watch any commercial, and you’ll be reminded of it. Even in comic strips.

In one of the “Peanuts” comic strips, Lucy says to Charlie Brown: “You know what I don’t understand? I don’t understand love!”
He says, “”Who does?”
She says, “Explain love to me, Charlie Brown.”
He says, “You can’t explain love.”
She says, “Well, try, Charlie Brown, try.”
Charlie says, “Well, let’s say I see this beautiful cute little girl walk by.”
Lucy interrupts. “Why does she have to be cute? Huh? Why can’t someone fall in love with someone with freckles and a big nose? Explain that!”
Charlie: “Well, maybe you are right. Let’s just say I see this girl walk by with this great big nose.”
Lucy: “I didn’t say GREAT BIG NOSE.”
Charlie: “You not only can’t explain love, you can’t even talk about it.”

Talking about love was difficult for Lucy. But I imagine she was in good company with most of us. I think, for just about everyone, love’s kind of hard to explain. 

What’s even harder, however, is to explain WHY we can’t explain it. Maybe that’s because love is basically thought of as an emotion more than, say, an act of obedience.

What?!? Love? Obedience?

Well, yes…If you approach it from a Biblical perspective.

Look in Deuteronomy 6:4 through 6, for example. There you’ll see it does NOT say, Just love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might whenever you’re in the right mood for it.

Rather, Moses makes it quite clear that loving God is a strict command given by the Almighty, himself, and in no uncertain terms: “Thou shalt…” adding, “And these words, which I am commanding you today shall be on your heart.”

Now, isn’t that interesting. A command that shall be on your heart? Is it possible that obedience to a command, like loving our Maker first and foremost, can come from the heart—our deepest and dearest emotions? Of course!

If it were NOT a command, how else would we aim to make the love of God our highest priority? Emotions go up and down like a rollercoaster. They change like night and day.

But if our lives are dedicated on truly loving the one, true God not only with our “heart” feelings (including earthly passions and ambitions) but sincerely with our “soul” (willingness to give up our whole life) and our “might” (full concentration regardless the circumstances and with all of one’s possessions), as the Rabbis explain it, then truly we have something tangible to apply in our lives (For example, read verses 7-9).

It’s with our deep love for God that we are able to “love our neighbor” as we love ourselves. The law given to Israel was, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” (Leviticus19:18).

Moreover, the command to love your neighbor wasn’t to be applied only to their own people. It also extended to loving the stranger or foreigner in their land: “The stranger [alien] who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God,” (Lev. 19:34). In other words, love was commanded to be toward all—both natives and foreigners alike.

Jesus confirmed the command to love God first, and second, to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-37). In fact, he says these are the foremost of all God’s commands.

Jesus even went so far as to say that not only are we to love those who love us but those who hate and despise us. “Love your enemy,” he said, not as an option but as a requirement for all of his followers (Matt. 5:43-48; Luke 6:30-35—NOTE: v. 31 is what we call, “The Golden Rule.”)

The early church continued to stress the necessity of loving your neighbor as yourself as Christ instructed. James called it “the royal law,” (James 2:8). The Apostle Paul said it summed up the whole law (Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14). He even wrote a “Love Chapter” about it (1 Corinthians 13). The First, Second, and Third Letters of John all go into detail about it including the truth that,

“If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also,” (1 John 4:20-21).

Interestingly, the word for “love” in these references have to do with the highest form of love that one could ever have. The Greek word for it is “agape” (pr., ah-gah’-peh). And it applies to God’s measureless, incomparable, and purest love. As the Bible clearly states, God not only has love (John 3:16), he IS love and he who abides in agape love, abides in God and God in him (1 John 4:8, 16).

The one who abides in the love of God through Christ is able to love one another unconditionally no matter the cost or the circumstance. Such love is what makes all other kinds of love possible, whether it be love of family, love of fellow Christians, love of our fellow human being, or (speaking of romance) intimate love between a husband and wife.

When we abide in God’s love, all other love is TRUE love in God’s eyes. And it goes beyond looks. Perhaps this should have been the discussion between Lucy and Charlie Brown. Then, maybe Lucy would’ve had a more satisfying answer to her question. At least, they wouldn’t have needed to get all hung up on a cute girl with a great big nose. Ya think?

And Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here’s the Rhett Walker Band singing, “Love Like Jesus”

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