Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Love with Expectations, Part 1
What is love? And what does it mean to love? These are questions that have been attempted to be answered by poets, philosophers, intellectuals, religious people and the average person for millennia. As it happens, most everyone tends to have a different definition of what love entails, or what love looks like. But what about love’s obligations? Once love enters a relationship, any relationship, are not certain expectations aroused that must be upheld by both parties?
First we shall strive to create a clear picture of what the concept of love is, and that should help us to better understand what the obligations involved with love entail. The apostle John writes about love as an active state of being; that is, a person expressing love (as defined by God) always has the betterment and welfare of others in their heart, whether they are “in love” with said person or otherwise. “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth,” 1st John 3:18. The apostle Paul carries the idea a step farther, building on what John states and tells us “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law,” Romans 13:10. This begins to give us an idea of what love looks like; and I don’t mean “love exercised” or “love in practice” for both apostles imply that “love” (as God defines it) should always be exercised and practiced, no matter if we “feel” it or not.
But love must be better defined before it can be practiced. We must have a clear picture of what love is…and what it is not. Love is not sex, for one thing. Nor is love strong feelings, though strong feelings can and often do accompany love at various times. But we are thinking people with reasoning minds; we are not meant to be ruled by feelings, which many times can be deceptive and lead good intentions astray. For instance, one may “love” another man’s wife but it is not true love, for as Paul told us, love does not do harm to another, period. This kind of love is lust, or covetousness, or pride. Human definition often fails to adequately provide boundaries for the concept of love, so I turn rather to our God’s infallible word.
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails,” 1st Corinthians 13:4-8.
The first thing that strikes me with the Biblical definition of love is that there is a conspicuous absence of sentimental descriptors. Emotion and feeling are sidelined, and love, as the Bible defines it, is an active agent of purposive change. The purpose? To relieve and succor those around us. A need is seen, and a need is met; that is how love works in the Bible; therefore that is how love works in practice. Love suffers long (puts up with a lot) and love is kind. Someone truly practicing love cannot simultaneously practice envy, demonstrate pomp (ego and pride) or arrogance. Love does not behave rudely toward others, nor is someone practicing love self-seeking. The idea of seeking its own can be two-fold. I believe here the idea is that love does not have a hidden agenda or goal that helps you as well as the one you’re “loving” with your actions. Then you are acting in the service of self and practicing not love, but hypocrisy, since the point of having come beside this person was ultimately to give you some sort of gain. Besides that our Lord warned that loving and doing good only to those who can return the favor so to speak is not enough. We have an eye to our assets and want a return for helping others, so we invest only in those who we are certain can “pay us back” that little loving favor. “For if you love those that love you, what reward have you? Do not even tax collectors do the same?” Matthew 5:46.