One of the best things about being part of Christian communities is the ability to learn from one another. I am not (despite my occasional prideful attempt to appear as such) an expert on the Bible, or theology, or Christianity in general. I truly value those who are willing to discuss openly and respectfully differing opinions when it comes to the Bible and Christianity with me.I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)
But, one of the worst things about being part of these communities is the rampant abuse of the concept of love. While I may not always be the best at practicing love, I do try. And I do hold it to be the most important message of the Bible... the greatest commandment in the Bible... and just the right way to treat one another. And, most claim to believe the same. But, many seem to take the love out of loving one another.
Take the Love out of Loving
So, what do I mean by this? How can someone take the love out of loving??? It's actually very easy. We do this when we apply our own definition to love, rather than take a Biblical view on the term and action. We do this when we misuse the phrase "love one another." Here are some common ways we take the love out of loving...
We Love Because We're Told To
Yes, Jesus commands us to love one another. I do not dispute this at all. And yes, love is a decision we make. However, we should not simply make the decision to love one another because we're ordered to do so. Or, perhaps it would be better to say we should not make the decision to go through the motions of loving one another because we're ordered to do so. This removes any true caring and concern for the other person. There are some who believe that love is simply an action - not an emotion. I believe we need to allow for both in order to be truly loving. We need to want to love. We need to want to show love to another.
If we have only the emotion without the actions to back it up - we've removed love from loving. If we have only the actions without any real care for the person - we've removed the love from loving.
Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)
We Love to Get Something in Return
I love you, therefore you will...
I show love to others, therefore God will...
When we are loving other people with the expectations that they will return this love, or will give us something in return, it is not real love. Love is selfless. Love is not contingent upon the reciprocity of our feelings and actions. To expect something in return is to take the love out of loving.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. (Luke 6:32-35)
We Love by Means of Criticizing, Condemning, or Judging
This one really gets under my skin. I cannot count how many times a day I hear people saying "I must tell him (in love) that he is a sinner and is going to hell if he doesn't repent now." "It is my God-given responsibility show love by warning that homosexual that she is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord!"
God does not give us permission to criticize, condemn or judge a person.
Yes, we are to speak truth. And yes, it can sometimes be loving to steer someone in the right direction. However, it is not loving to tell a complete stranger, or someone you really don't know very well, how much of a sinner he/she is, or how much you disapprove of that person's actions.
This borders on harassment or abuse, and at best takes the love out of loving.
I don't normally quote from The Message version of the Bible, but I do truly appreciate the wording of this verse...
Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. (Galatians 6:1)
Other Ways to Take the Love out of Loving
The above three ways we "love" (which aren't really loving) are only the more common things I have seen - and are based more on how we show love to neighbors, enemies, strangers... people whom we don't have an intimate relationship with (although, they can fit for the intimate relationships as well).
But, if we look at intimate relationships, there are probably many other ways we take the love out of loving...
- we love to fill a void in our life
- we love to complete some form of personal identity
- we love for the permissible sexual union
- we love so we're not alone
- we love by being abusive
- we love by staying with someone whom is abusive
I'm sure I could probably continue this list well into the night, but it is now time for me to retire. May we all learn how to love, and how to love lovingly. God bless!
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)