What kind of love?

In the 4th week of Advent, we meditate on Love.  Love is “a many-splendored thing,” isn’t it?  Love intoxicates us. A dinner with love is a feast. A song shared in love makes our heart beat faster. A beautiful vista shared with one we love becomes a thing of delight. The warmth of a loving embrace will linger for a day. Oh, you’re right. I’m writing about romantic love. That is not the same love that we celebrate this week, is it? True enough, but the love we find in God’s gift makes us capable of the best kind of love in this world, right here, right now.

Christian, to quote an old song, “what the world needs now is love … not just for some, but for everyone.” (Burt Bacharach)  Being loved by God and loving Him in return cannot be without a human dimension. Religion that does not move us to love in this world is empty and faulty.  Christians must be great lovers because they are deeply loved.

One of the best books I have ever read on the subject of love is titled, Bold Love (NavPress, 1993) written by Dr. Dan Allender.  The author lifted me beyond the incomplete ideas of love that is founded on desire or ‘compatibility,’ to realize that love is a choice, a sustained effort, a way of life. “There is an enormous drive in the fallen human personality that impedes the process of learning to love and an equally powerful force outside of every person that labors to destroy every effort to love. … Complacency and presumption work hand-in-hand to blind even Christians to the importance of love and inherent battle involved in learning to love. IF we are to learn to love, we must begin with an acknowledgment that love is not natural and that love’s failure is not easy to admit.”

This week in Advent we can think newly of an ancient love, meditating on a Baby’s birth, and thus finding renewal in the love of God!  And it will be a transformative experience.  Indeed, they Word declares – “We love each other because he loved us first.” (1 John 4:19, NLT)  In this world where Evil is real, where sin is persistent, where hate is strong, we cannot allow ourselves to be naïve, to believe that all the suffering and wrong results merely from people who act in ways that are  ‘mistaken’ or because they are ‘confused.’  Yes, many of us are those things, garden variety sinners, but evil lurks in the hearts of people and causes us to do terrible things to others.  

God loves us to life and asks us to respond in a way that does not simply involve self-interest or our own comfort.  Jesus, God come to us in love, demonstrates a radical response to an evil world. As a person filled with His Spirit I am to be known for a quality of love that includes a deep reservoir of forgiveness, that acts against evil, that includes the ‘unlovely,’ that seeks the best for others. It is a BOLD LOVE! 

What does that love look like?

First, that kind of love is beyond mere sentiment and is more than benign indifference! It is active in pursuit of life and beauty.

It comes from a deep work of the Holy Spirit, from a solid foundation of God’s love in our own life first. “We love,” the Bible says, “because He loved us first.” There is no way I will consistently choose to turn the other cheek, no way that I will pursue the well-being of a person I believe hates me, if I am not fully convinced that God is my refuge, my fortress, and my loving Father who cares for me. It is almost impossible to boldly love an evil person with an active love that overcomes their wickedness unless we are held securely in faith, the wisdom of the Word planted deeply in our mind and heart. Before we can give grace, we must know grace.

Second, bold love is not needy.

Much of what passes for ‘love’ in our world is nothing more than an expression of our need to own another’s affection. Healthy love that Jesus desires in us is not shaped around our emotional desire to be liked!  A codependent person will continue to let others abuse and mistreat them in one-sided relationships. That leads to pitiful situations where things go from bad to worse. The kind of love that overcomes evil has little to do with our own needs. It has everything to do with meeting the other person’s need. Jesus did not need to become our Savior to fill an emotional need in Himself. He is God, self-sufficient in every way. He chose to love us because He knew we were lost. He moved strategically to bring about change.  Is your love both wise and tender?

Third, bold love is hopeful!

Jesus’ love as the model in this, too. Our aim in loving those who are mean, cruel, or abusive is to lead them to the Savior, to call them to wholeness and transformation.  He sees the person who is sinning, who is resisting God’s ways, and He loves. Likewise, we love others with prayerful hope that persistent love will overcome and sow the seeds of change in their heart and mind. Radical love is costly and those who choose to love like Jesus will pay a high price. From our place in time, it often looks like evil wins over goodness. But, we, by faith, continue to live in love and trust that the Eternal One, Who is working deeply in us and through us will triumph by His love.

Pray to know love and to live in love. This is the very heart of the Christmas story.

The word from the Word. “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:7-12, NIV)

_______________

Love Came Down At Christmas

Love came down at Christmas
Love Incarnate Love divine
Love was born at Christmas
Star and angels gave the sign

Immanuel, our God comes

Immanuel, our Hope, our Trust

So worship we the God-head
Love divine
Worship we our Jesus
In this holy time

For love shall be our token
Love be yours and love be mine
Love to God and neighbor

Immanuel, our God with us

Immanuel, our Hope, our Trust

Love shall be our sign
Love came down

Christina Georgina Rossetti | Stan Pethel

© Words: Public Domain

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