Many people around the country this week were preparing for and celebrating Valentine’s Day. So I thought I would read two biblical passages about love. These passages reminded me of why I don’t want to love: John 17:20-26 and 1 Cor 13:8-13.
In John 17, Jesus reminded me that my love of fellow Christians is supposed to reflect at least something of the love Jesus shared with the Father. I realize that I cannot actually demonstrate the real love shared amongst two members of the Trinity; for that love is perfect love. However, this passage is a reminder that I am to show a radically different love toward fellow Christians than our culture generally understands. I am to demonstrate a love that is described in another passage, 1 Corinthians 13. This passage reminds me of how much I don’t want to love.
At first, it may seem odd to say, “I don’t want to love.” Like the Capital One commercials ask, “Who doesn’t want more money?”, a similar question could be asked of me, “Who doesn’t want to love?” Yet, fellow Christians are so difficult to love. They have complex personalities that sometimes anger me, sometimes shock me, and many times disappoint me. I have found myself growing to be a glass-half empty person with regards to judging my brothers and sisters in Christ. I don’t want to love them; they are too difficult. They will hurt me. I find I sometimes need protection from the people with whom I’m supposed to “be one in Christ Jesus.”
Further, in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul reminds me that love is patient and kind. That love does not envy, is not boastful, and is not conceited. Love does not act improperly, is not selfish, nor provoked. Love keeps no records of wrongs. In love, there is no joy in unrighteousness, but love rejoices in the truth. And he reminds me that I don’t really want to love. I know I’m impatient and unkind; that I’ve envied, boasted, and been conceited. I know how often I’m provoked and how I’ve acted improperly and selfishly over the years. All this to say, I’ve seen within myself the person who delights in unrighteousness and whose been upset with the truth. Love, as Paul describes above, is too hard for me and I don’t want to do it.
These are the reasons why I don’t want to love; it hurts this girl so much to love anyone. Instead of risking the hurt, I sometimes revert to my attitude of indifference, reminiscent of the days when I didn’t believe in God’s Love. When I thought my identity was equal to a blob of atoms in a pitiless, indifferent universe. I don’t really “love,” I just have chemical reactions. I would sit there, curled up in that moment, wondering: does any of this really matter? Is there really a perfect Love? Isn’t it too difficult to work out what “love” even means anymore? Don’t I just use that word to make myself feel better, but it actually has no meaning? No. Why? Because this girl hurts so much.
This is the key: I am really hurting. It’s not something I made up or imagined. Jesus and Paul are telling me the way things are actually supposed to be. Love is supposed to be patient and kind and unselfish. Yet, the reality is that I live in a universe in which there is much impatience, unkindness, and selfishness; there is evil. I’m not simply referring to the evil ‘out there’ but the evil in me. That’s why it hurts so much to love and why I don’t want to love. I live according to “how it’s not supposed to be” and that hurts. The problem is I will always hurt until God restores his creation to the way it’s supposed to be. And in the pain inflicted by myself and by others, I will constantly struggle with love.
So I don’t want to love because it is so injurious, and yet I do. I long to be completely open before a love, but only before the perfect love of my Creator. It’s the love that I do not know yet, but of which I can obtain imperfect glimpses through this life. I can be the person who seeks unity in fellowship, as Jesus and the Father are one. I can be the person, who though flawed, can intend to offer much patience, kindness, and unselfishness towards others.
It’s the love against which I can contrast my hurt. I can vouch that this girl hurts because she knows that it is hurt in the light of a perfect love. Without the perfectly good love of God, I have no standard by which I can explain that my hurt is real. If there is no standard for how things are supposed to be, then my hurt is just the way things are.
So I do not want to love—at least not imperfectly—since loving others this way will hurt me and my imperfect love will hurt others. Yet, though I do not want to love in this way, I will. I will love people, even so deficiently, as we all wait for the perfect love of God to redeem our love towards one another. I will love people, even knowing that to do so will mean risking my own injury. And I will love my Christian brothers and sisters, even when we hurt each other. Our love for one another is a radically different, though imperfect, kind of love that doesn’t just love when it’s easy or convenient. It’s a love that sees a family though the darkest of nights and the hardest of trials. I believe this is the love spoken of in John 17 by which the world will know Jesus is God’s Son.