“All you need is love.” “We are called to love.” “Love conquers all.” “Love is my religion.” “I love you.” “Love > fear.” “Love is love.”
But what is love?
“I’m giving you a new commandment: Love each other in the same way that I have loved you. Everyone will know that you are my disciples because of your love for each other.” ~Jesus, John 13:34-35
Tolerance. Acceptance. No change required. Just the way you are. Hugs and kisses. Warm fuzzies. Holding hands as we all walk through life going different directions…. that’s love.
Or is it?
No, sweet friend. That’s not love. At least, not true love. That isn’t deep in the heart, all consuming, life altering, I’d take a bullet for you, love. It isn’t love at all really. Because if you don’t have all consuming love, what do you have? If love doesn’t change you, what is it good for? If love doesn’t challenge you and make you grow to be better than you ever thought possible, why bother?
If Jesus was all about tolerance, acceptance, and making sure everyone felt good about their choices, why on earth would He have died? Why would they have killed Him? No. They killed Him because He challenged them to do better, to live better. To change their thinking, their perspective, and their hearts! He demanded a different life than they had been living, and nothing else was acceptable by God. But He loved? Yes. He loved so greatly that He kept going. He let them do terrible things to Him because He loved and He knew His greater purpose. He loved His Father God more than anything this world had to offer. He submitted to that love and purpose because He loved us. Because without change there is no eternal hope. So He endured. He loved. And He died for it.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you this: Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. In this way you show that you are children of your Father in heaven. He makes his sun rise on people whether they are good or evil. He lets rain fall on them whether they are just or unjust. If you love those who love you, do you deserve a reward? Even the tax collectors do that! Are you doing anything remarkable if you welcome only your friends? Everyone does that! That is why you must be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” ~Matthew 5:43-48
Love is sacrifice. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is humble. Love is confident. Love is selfless. Love seeks the good and wellbeing of others. Love is forgiving. Love does not exult wrongdoing. Love delights in Truth. Love sustains. Love believes. Love hopes. Love abides. [See 1 Corinthians 13 ]
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
Do you want to change the world? Do you want your community to be a better place? Love like Jesus. He turned the world upside with His love. The Father’s love. It doesn’t make sense to our self-serving humanity. It isn’t touchy feely and strictly emotional. This kind of love, HIS kind of TRUE Love, is hard. It goes against our impulse to fight back and take everything personally when we are wronged, but this love has a powerful purpose far beyond ourselves and our own agenda.
Real love will change your life. It will call you to action and boldness. Love will turn you inside out and show you who you are at your very core. But it won’t leave you there. Thank God that His Love doesn’t leave us there. His love changes us and shapes us into being more like Him when we let it. And from there, His love changes the world.