Monday, May 28, 2018

What Is Love?

There is a scene in Black Panther where Ulysses Klaue is being interrogated. As he is taped to the chair he sings "What is love? Baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more". Though intended as a mockery in the movie, it's a good question. Love is commonly appealed to, and very rarely described or defined. This is an unfortunate reality today. In order to actually love, we must understand what love is. The Apostle Paul can help us here.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. - 1 Corinthians 13.4-7 (ESV)
Love is profoundly other centered. It is very easy for us to demand to be loved rightly, but this is not love. If love does not insist on its own way, we cannot say that our motivation is love when we demand something of someone else. I don't think this text is intended to be a set of rules for how to love. It is rather a description of how love looks. There are too many cases where this wisdom needs to be applied in different ways, like almost all of biblical wisdom. This text shouldn't be used as proof that someone is not being loving (since that defeats the spirit of the text).

However, my observations of the church that I see show a profound reversal of this text. We are prone to demand that others love us rightly, but have we loved them? Can we say that we do not insist on our own way when we demand love? Can we say that we do not hold grudges and resentment when we demand love? Can we say that we bear with our family, believes the best of our family, and endure with our family when we demand love? If these are not characteristic of you, then praise God. But observing the way people respond to others, the way I respond to others, it is much more often the case that we demand love instead of giving (sometimes undeserved, Christlike) love.

A church that seeks to love each other in this way, where each member seeks to love another without demanding or expecting love in return, is a picture of Christ who loved us when we reviled him, spit upon him, beat him, mocked him, and crucified him. We are called to love our enemies and neighbors, but can we love them if we do not love the bride of Christ as he loves her? I do not think so.

What is love? Something other worldly.

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