Imagine my disappointment when I found that only 28% of my blog posts fall in the category titled “love.” If I were being biblical, it would be 100%. This is why I always smile when people tell me I talk so much about love. “Dude! God is about a lot more than lu-u-u-v-v-v!” Okay, humor aside, this sentiment only shows just how much we ignorantly dismiss what we don’t understand.
Let’s make no mistake. Absolutely everything about God, and absolutely everything we’re to be about as human beings should be subsumed within love. So, in order to get my subject matter back on track with what’s important to God, I’m going to talk about the most important question we can ever dare to ask ourselves:
“Have I learned how to love?”
Here’s the way Paul put it in Romans 13:
8 Don’t owe anything to anyone, except your outstanding debt to continually love one another, for the one who learns to love has fulfilled every requirement of the law. 9 For the commandments, “Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet,” and every other commandment can be summed up in these words:
“Love and value others the same way you love and value yourself.” (Rom.13:8-9 TPT*)
This summation of Paul’s is similar to him telling us that no matter what we think we’ve accomplished, if we haven’t learned to love we’ve accomplished absolutely nothing (1 Cor.13:1-3). Of course, Paul got this from Jesus (Matt.7:12; 22:37-40; John 15:9-12).
What strikes me every time I read these passages (and the many others like them) is how comprehensive the subject of God’s other-centered, self-giving love is. If we have truly learned how to receive God’s love and love others exactly the same way God loves us, we have accomplished everything possible to accomplish in this life.
Conversely, to the degree we’ve missed that it’s all about walking in God’s other-centered, self-giving love is the degree to which we’ve missed the point of it all.
Of course, love looks like something, and it can express itself in a myriad of ways, and we can discuss those ways for days on end. But also understand this kind of love is counter-cultural and subversive; especially to those who wish to maintain their power constructs.
Jesus expressed love by valuing what His culture dismissed, engaging with the most despised and marginalized of His society. He gave sight to those who couldn’t see, and even loved those who thought they could see by telling them they were blind.
The point is, if our motive for doing or saying veers from this kind of love, we have veered from the truth. Our teaching is patently false, no matter how eloquently constructed and how influential it may be.
It’s vital that we first understand what love is, because so many of us have had such a distorted and even destructive view of it from our human experience.
Love that is not other-centered—always wanting what’s best for the other person, regardless of whether they’re worthy of it or not, and giving the same grace as we would want for ourselves—is not love. It’s a human defect…a projection of our own blindness on to others, afflicting them with our unhealed wounds.
No, until we learn how to first be loved by God, we will always try to fill the void through other people, which is called codependency, not love.
This other-centered love is learning how to think about others the same way I think about myself, which must include understanding why someone does things that anger me, because I might do the very same things (maybe in different ways).
The Beatles were right about all we need is love; they just didn’t understand how to get there. Because, in practice, we don’t know how to love this way. Our love is fickle, conditional, based in self-interest, and it’s anything but consistent.
I’ve found in myself, and in others, that the biggest blind-spot we have as human beings is that we want grace for ourselves but we rarely show the same consideration for others. And the only time this really matters is when the other person does not deserve it (otherwise, it’s not grace!)
What I’ve learned is this: the only way I will ever begin to learn how to love is by learning how to be loved by God first, then I must learn how to continue to live in His love, and then learn how to love others exactly the same way. And that’s the only commandment that matters.
12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matt.7:12 NIV*)
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (John 15:9-12 NIV*)
If you want to learn the secret to a life fully lived, learn how to love. It’s the only true gauge of spiritual progress.
And, yes, it’s true. All you need is love.