It’s time to stop trying to ignore ugly truth, and start honoring true love. True love esteems others even as we love ourselves. Biblical love is forgets self, fears no danger,counts no cost, and cannot be quenched or drowned (S. of Sol. 8:7). It the love that Jesus commands (John 13:34, 35).
These two verses mention the word love four times. And not as request, but as command. ever wondered why Jesus commands, rather than requests, love? Perhaps it’s because human love is selective and conditional, expects returns on its investment, and thus is seldom, if ever, given freely. Consider these characteristics of real agape love:
It is indiscriminate: like a rose that doesn’t withhold its fragrance from anyone; like the light that never withholds its rays from the wicked, even those who love darkness more than light; like a tree that gives its shade to good, bad, young, old, high and low;to animals, to humans, to enemies. God makes His sun shine on good and bad alike and the rain to fall on saints as well as sinners. We express and experience this love by seeing all people as children of God, created in His image.
Freedom is just another word for love.
Second, true love is always giving. Like the tree, the rose, the light, it gives and asks for nothing in return. We despise the gold digger, one whose choice of a spouse is determined only by the money he/she brings to the marriage. But is our own love any different when we love God only for what He provides, or seek only the company of those who bring us emotional gratification? To acquire the gratuitousness that characterizes love means abandoning our selfishness and seeing again, as if for the first time, what real love is in Christ.
Third, love is un-self-conscious. Love so enjoys loving that it is blissfully unaware of itself; not blind, as some may say, but rather, clear-sighted and intuitive, aware of others more than its own self-expression of grace—the way light is busy shining with no thought of whether we approve or not; the way a rose gives out its fragrance whether there is someone to enjoy it or not. The way a tree offers its shade regardless whether one is around or not: that’s how real love is. It has no consciousness of any merit for doing or being good. Its left hand has no concept of its right-hand action, asking instead: “Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty and help You?” (see Matt. 25:37).
Finally, love is free. Coercion and control are its opposite. Think how the rose, the tree, the light leave us completely free. The tree drags no one into its shade, even if we are in danger of a sunstroke. A lamp will not force its light on us lest we stumble in the dark. They respect our freedom to use or not enjoy their resources. Think of all the coercion and control that we submit to on the part of others when we so anxiously live up to their expectations in order to buy their love and approval or because we fear we will lose their love. Each time we submit to these, we undermine the capacity to love and receive love that is our very nature, for we cannot but do to others only what we allow them to do to us.
Reflect then, on your life, as I’ve been doing to recover my voice and speak up, freely, about Jesus and His love. After all, freedom is just another word for love.
Hyveth Williams is a professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University.