What is Love?

When I was 16 I experienced what many would call a “spiritual awakening”. At the time, my dad was stationed at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina for 6 months. We knew that after 6 months we would be moving to Maryland. In the midst of all that change, I found one constant: God.

We met in the woods. I felt like I was finding that secret place, like Jesus told his disciples to do when they asked him how to pray. Whenever I find myself thinking of what it means to be close to God, to walk with God, I think back on that time in my life. I used to take my guitar with me sometimes so that I could sing to God. Mostly we would just talk, though.

Let me just clarify something. When people say they talk with God, they mostly mean that they talk AT God. The people who really talk WITH God are either lying (probably to themselves), or they have learned to recognize that still small voice. Distinguishing God’s voice from the other thoughts in our minds is one of the more difficult things to accomplish. This is why I think meditation is so important for Christians. No wonder none of us agree–we are all listening to the thoughts in our heads and thinking we are hearing from God!! Unfortunately, most of us rarely empty our minds for long enough to know the difference between God’s voice and our own.

During my walks with God, I asked God for two things:

1) Teach me to love as You love.

2) Teach me to trust You.

It did not take long for my training to begin. I knew it had started because situations arose in my life that I began to see in a different way. For example, when it was difficult to deal with the people I lived with, or I felt the tug of the Spirit to do something I really didn’t want to do for the good of someone in my family, a light bulb–ping!–would let me know that THIS is what I had asked for. Of course, I had forgotten to ask God to teach me using the easiest and least painful methods possible.

The first thing I wanted to do was define “love”. I wanted to love as God loves, and I knew that God is love. It seemed the next logical step would be to answer the question, “what is love?” Hah! Way easier said than done.

It turns out that love is really undefinable in the same ways that God is undefinable. Jesus said, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father,” so I guess Jesus is love. When we are faced with “unlovable” people, the question we must answer is “How would Jesus respond to this person?” Not just the “Jesus” from the Passion of the Christ or whatever other version of the New Testament you’ve seen on the Bible channel. I’m talking about the REAL Jesus. I-AM. Alpha and Omega. God the Son. Without whom nothing was made that has been made. That one.

Gandhi said to be the change we want to see in the world. Jesus said to take up our cross and follow Him. I want people to love one another. So I have to love people. That means taking up my burdens daily and bearing them for the sake of others.

What is love?

Love is patient.

…take a deep breath before you say the thing you really wanted to say to the idiot driver(s) who created traffic when all you want to do is get where you are going.

Love is kind.

…Random acts of kindness are nice, but how about considering the needs of those around you? Try thinking ahead: what needs to be done? Do it. Even if it’s “not your job”.

Love does not envy.

…Stop comparing your life to other people’s lives. It doesn’t work like that anyway. They might have a nicer house than you, but maybe they have an annoying neighbor who blares their bass-heavy music at random times of the day. Another person might be happily married and expecting a child while you are single and wish you could find a partner. Instead of being envious, find the joy of being free to make unilateral decisions. Make the most of singleness and enjoy it while you can. Being married is hard work, which is why 50% of marriages end in divorce. Believe me, you would rather be single than divorced any day.

Love does not boast, it is not proud.

…Exaggerating is unbecoming. The truth, plain and simple, is a humble thing.

Love is not rude.

…It really doesn’t take THAT much energy to be courteous. Rudeness is inconsiderate of the feelings of others. Treat others as you want to be treated.

Love does not demand its own way.

…What? Really? Didn’t God demand that everyone bow to Him and love Him or else He would send them to hell? Oh, right. That wasn’t the real God (of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), that was the “god” that Christianity made up in order to gain more followers faster. Hey, what better way to light people on fire for Jesus than to threaten them with an eternity of scorching torment? Seriously, though, this goes back to considering others more important than yourself: come to a compromise, and every once in a while, sacrifice your own desires for the sake of others.

Love is not irritable.

…Don’t be grumpy! A bad mood gets passed on faster than the flu. Stop it. Be nice.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

…Remember that time when you–nope, I forgot all about it. I think this means that we treat each other as if we have not been wronged. That’s what forgiveness is, right?

Love does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices when truth wins.

…Be careful what and whom you cheer for. These days injustice is insidious. Many of us live in complete ignorance about injustices happening in the world. Let us seek the truth and reject the bliss of ignorance.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

…Keep trying. Don’t let the darkness win. Even if it seems like all the work you do isn’t making a difference in the world, never give up.

“If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13 (the Apostle Paul)

Everything in this world passes away except for three things: FAITH, HOPE, and LOVE.

These are eternal, and the greatest thing of all is love.

As a side-note, “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” is nowhere in the bible. That saying comes from St. Augustine and Gandhi. Although I respect these men and their accomplishments, their words do not trump God’s. Jesus said to “love your enemy.” That means terrorists, democrats, republicans, communists, gays, atheists. Love them all. Practice the attributes of love (see above) towards all people.

I would like to share two things with you that inspired this blog post today:

1) A YouTube video of Rob Bell verbally affirming gay people.

2) A song by Jennifer Knapp (who has since “come out” as a lesbian) called Martyrs and Theives. This song brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it. If you want to read the lyrics click here.

Grace and peace to you all. May you love as God loves.