Most of us probably thought of family members and friends with whom we really “connect”. We may have also thought of some of the folks we work with or attend church with, and maybe some of our neighbors. Maybe thoughts of folks who do nice things for us crossed our minds. And, if we were feeling especially altruistic, we might also have thought of people who are hurting in the world … those who are in poverty or in pain or even enslaved.
Those are all great … folks we should love. And most of us will say that love is a powerful thing … that it changes hearts and minds, and that it can change the world.
But, if love is so powerful, why, when we think about those we love, do we think of the folks we have reason to love and the folks we have contact with on a daily basis? And, at our kindest, we think of people who we chances are will never ever come in contact with. One must ask, too, whether that is really love or simply compassion.
In any event, this all sounds to me like we practice a lot of “safe love” … loving those either who love us back or who we will never meet.
But think about this … if the power of love is undeniable, what happens when we extend it to those who we really have no reason to love? What happens when we extend it to those who look different than us, think different than us … and even to those who might hurt us? Isn’t love a lot more powerful … a lot more exciting … a little more dangerous, when we take it outside those who love us and those whom we will never meet?
I will quickly say that my source of love comes from God. I think of God’s love for us (“For God so love the world that He gave us His only begotten son…”). I also think of Jesus’ command to love others as we love ourselves. And I think in general of Jesus’ consistently showing love even to those who many thought He could not possibly love.
But what if, for you, your source of love does not come from faith? Chances are that it comes from some sort of inner moral compass that just tells you it’s good to love others … to recognize their worth and value, and extend that feeling toward them in the form of love. And that’s okay. I don’t think that those who put their faith in God have captured the market on love … in fact, sometimes we mess up love pretty badly.
At this point, let me pose one other question: What does love really mean anyway? I kind of break it down into three areas and, interestingly, they mirror the Holy Trinity. Love, to me is:
1) The ability to gently and with utmost care and respect, speak the power of Truth into the lives of others when appropriate. This, to me, is God because He is Truth. And it’s an area that Christians often mess up … speaking Truth, or something we sometimes like to disguise as Truth, is easier done in a judgmental way than from a platform of genuine love and concern. That messes things up quickly.
2) Mercy … or call it compassion. This to me is the Holy Spirit at work in our lives … naturally knowing when we are called to do something nice for another human being, or to respond to them in a time of need. This is a powerfully visible showing of love.
3) Justice … This is the part of love I think of when I think of Jesus. He loved people, and taught us to love others, not because they were related to Him or because they had done something nice for Him. He loved others because, like Himself, they were children of God. He knew that our worth and value come inherently because God loves us … and if we’re to carry God’s love to the world, then we must be able to show that love to all others. That includes those who don’t think or look or act like ourselves … and even those who want to hurt us.
These three components of love … Truth, Mercy, and Justice … create a strange tension sometimes. In particular, creating a good combination and balance of Truth and Justice can be a real challenge for us … and something we don’t always get right the first time. But, when it comes to love, I believe we’re better off to try and fail than to never try. Jesus knew we couldn’t be perfect … he called us though to love one another.
So, what happens if we start to think of Love in terms of everyone … not just those who love us in return or those we will never meet? What if it includes getting rid of bad or unfair thoughts or words about others? What happens when love is simply something we always strive for … because everyone has just as much worth and value as we do … and because God loves them and He calls us to love all others?
This is an easy concept to nod our heads to … but an incredibly difficult one to live out with consistency. But, love does change everything … it makes minds start to understand each other, it softens hearts, it blends skin colors … if we show God’s love – our love -- to everyone and not just to those who we know will reciprocate … we will change the world.