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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Love, actually

Source: Christian Stores
I put together some big (for me) bits and pieces about the nature of true love recently.  The bible comments on love from two perspectives - that we should love each other as Jesus loves us (John 13:34) and that we should love one another as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31).  Jo from Princess Warrior Lessons wrote a really good blog entry on the latter.

It sparked me to really internalizing the old adage "you can not truly love someone else, until you love yourself".  God wants us to to live love - to be love, give love and receive love.  For us to be the shining diamonds that channel and reflect His love, for all people, everywhere.
So, if God's love for us is the template for how to love ourselves, and therefore, each other (and bring both John 13:34 and Mark 12:31 into harmony) - what, then, is God's love like?

My most favourite passage of the bible gives us a great set of guidelines for true love - 1 Corinthians 13:4-13 tells us:

 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Love is described here in very real, tangible terms - not as an ethereal feeling or whimsical emotion, but a solid pathway we can choose to follow.

What is fascinating about this passage is not just what IS in it, but also what is NOT in it.  We are not told to give all of this patience and kindness only to those whom we can reasonably expect to return it - indeed Leviticus 19:18 says very explicitly "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.".  We are not told that love is a barter exchange - a great effort we should go to only if the other person merits it or returns it.  No, we are to love all people - those who cherish us and those who scorn us.  Those who lift us up and those who drag us down.

And yet, nor are we given to become doormats in the act of love - we are to be loving and giving, but without compromise to our own principles.  Patient, but not without limits.

It sounds like an insurmountable burden.  How can we find the energy to do this?  How can we find so much love to give, freely, without anyone filling US up?  By ourselves, of course, we can not.  But this is not strictly our love to give, we are not asked to do it by ourselves.  Our most perfect Father in Heaven already lights our way by example - loving us perfectly in our imperfectness, and filling us with His love for His people, that we may be His lights in the world.

Lately, I have had some struggles with my "love tank" failing.  To continue an out pouring of love in faith as a response to His command, on shores that are rocky and uncertain.  Three times now, I have tried to turn away from a relationship task He has given me, a huge leap of faith He asked me to make.  In my prayers, I cried out to him, "Abba, Father, this is too hard.  I can't do this.  I'm terrified.  What shall I do?"

And he said to me "When your love fails, I will fill you with mine.  When you are tired and broken and can no longer see the things in these others that you love because you are blinded by hurt and pride, I will show you the love that I have for them."

I have felt a joy and a lifting in my spirit, that I can continue anew, filled in my heart with His love, the eternal wellspring that will never run dry.

For God so loved the world, that he gave His only son...if He can do this for me, surely I, His unworthy but faithful servant, can preach until I drop, and love until all see.

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