"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on it's own way; It is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, endures all things." 1 Cor 13:4-7
I was thinking about the word love recently and how many different ways we can use it and how it has different meanings. Often people use the word love to describe things that they like; things that they appreciate or admire or see something good or beautiful in. Like we say that we love a piece of music, or love a sunset... what we mean is that there is something in that music and in the sunset that appeals to our senses, that makes a sense of appreciation rise up within us, that makes us feel a fondness towards that thing. We might not even know exactly why, but quite simply the other thing brings us some level of joy, which makes us love it. But i was thinking how this type of love very much depends upon some merit in the object that we love. One of the ways in which we love God is probably like this... we see something good and beautiful in Him and we love Him for it.. we love Him, because He first loved us... even the Bible says that... we appreciate Him.. we admire Him.. we want to praise Him... quite simply there is something altogether beautiful and love-able about Him that makes us love Him. And i think we often love people like this too.... often we might say to a friend that we love them, and we are basing it on things we see in them which we love... certain qualities and attributes, certain mannerisms... just things that we value about them. I don't think this is a bad thing... i think it's good to love people like this, it's good to see the best in them, it's good to appreciate things about them... and there are definitely so many things to love in every human being we come across, because every person is made in the image of God. So i think this is definitely part of what love means, but still i'm pretty sure it falls short of what the Bible often means by love. The problem with this type of love alone is that it's almost inactive - it doesn't require us to do anything, or give anything as such.. except that we give praise and we appreciate what we see in the other..... infact, rather than asking us to give, it almost demands something of the other person instead... it demands a love-able characteristic in them... It requires something good in the thing being loved.
However, i think there is a whole other depth to the meaning of love that is far beyond a simple appreciation of something or someone, and i think that this it the type of love that God is getting at when He asks us to love others. It's the way in which He loves us... He didn't originally love us because of good things He saw in us.. it wasn't that He just admired us... but He loved us while we were still sinners. He felt affection and tenderness towards us not because we deserved it, or merited it in the same way that a beautiful sunset might, but simply because He chose to. I can't get my head round this. All i know is that this is what He asks us to do for others too. He asks us to love even our enemies... It's not an inactive love, He's not simply asking us to admire them for certain things as such, but He's asking us to actively show them an attitude of love.. to be patient and kind towards them, rather than rude or resentful, to forgive them, to give to them when they are in need, to bear with them, support them, encourage them and help them. It's not demanding something of the other person... but it's demanding something of US. It's the love that asks us to give ourselves to others, to feed the hungry and visit the sick and care for widows and orphans, to clothe those who are naked, to share truth with those who live under lies.
The main difference i noticed between these two types of love, is that the first requires a positive thing in the person, whereas the second reaches out to fill a deficit. And the reason it can do that is because it is actually LOVE itself that contains everything good and beautiful, because love IS God and He is the only One who actually is perfectly good and beautiful and worthy of admiration and praise. He knows that He is the only source of anything good and if we do see those things in others, it comes from Him anyway.... so what He asks of us, is not to just admire things in others, but to love others in a way which lets His very self live in us and overflow from us and impart His goodness to them. What i'm getting at, is that in a way, the fewer characteristics that someone has that we think are love-able, the more they probably need love... because love itself has a redemptive and restorative effect... it bears fruit, it's the source of life and goodness... in our act of loving others we are letting God, who is love, flood into that person.. and He is the one who is the source of anything that we may later appreciate in them. I guess it's a little like land that is completely parched.. the more dry and cracked it is, the more it needs water... it would be stupid to say that the land had to be looking lush and green and overflowing with flowers and trees BEFORE we ever watered it... it needs the water to turn out like that.. and if it's just bare, with no flowers or trees that doesn't mean we withhold water, it means we give water even more.. because it is truly in need of it.
At the same time though, i'm not suggesting that love is devoid of affection or feeling.. even though this love is more active and doesn't require anything of the other person, i think we are still asked to love deeply and warmly and to feel true affection towards the person, not just do things out of duty. And the only way that is possible is to ask God for His love for others, and to let that be what abides in us. Our own love is feeble and half-hearted and nothing at all in comparison with His. My desire is to let Him live in me so fully, that His love and His heart for others naturally overflows from me.