Christian Living

Spiritual Life

What's Love Got to Do with It?

February is a month in which a lot of attention is given to the topic of love. The sad part is most people have absolutely no idea what love looks like or how it’s supposed to act. It’s no wonder. Over the last 50 years or so, thanks to an increasingly amoral entertainment industry, love has become synonymous with sex. Sad to say, most people don’t know the difference.

Some time ago I was teaching a sixth grade science class. Trying to begin a discussion about sexual and asexual reproduction with a bunch of sixth graders is a challenge. I knew I was in for it before I even started. Still, I wasn’t prepared for a surprising revelation.

Amid the snickers and snorts as I tried to introduce my lesson, one of my students teasingly said, “Oh, man! We thought you were going to teach us about making love.”

“I don’t think so,” I shot back. “Besides, sex and love are not the same thing.”

In an instant the room went completely quiet. My students stared at me with open mouths. The look of surprise and shock sent my heart to my toes as I realized my kiddos actually believed the lie. They really did think the two were the same.

With today’s worldview, a lot of people are operating on the assumption love is some mysterious thing that just happens and over which you have no control. The number one reason cited for divorce is “I just don’t love him/her anymore.” This statement is often accompanied by a sigh and a shake of the head as though the speaker can’t understand how it could have happened.

The Bible, on the other hand, gives a very different picture of love. In 1 Corinthians 13 we read,

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”

And in 1 John 4:7-8 we learn that love comes from God because God is himself love. No mystery here. Love is clearly defined by God’s word.

Oddly enough, even Christians have somehow bought into the idea love is a warm fuzzy feeling. But love is not a feeling. It’s a choice. Matthew 5:44 tells us to “love your enemies.” It is impossible to feel warm and fuzzy about people we don’t like. Enemies, by virtue of the fact they ARE enemies, don’t inspire those kinds of feelings. Therefore, since we know God wouldn’t ask (or command) us to do something we CAN’T, it must mean love is a choice.

Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)

By understanding the nature of love and then choosing to operate in it we declare ourselves as followers of Christ. It isn’t the t-shirt we wear or the little fish on our cars. They’ll know us by our love.

In the dead of winter, trees are difficult to tell apart unless you’re a horticulturalist. The bare branches all tend to look the same against a gray winter sky. In spring the blossoms give a hint of what will follow, but by late summer the identity of the tree is completely revealed with the appearance of fruit. There can be no mistaking an apple tree for a peach tree. The fruit is the evidence.

The same could be said of Christians. From a distance, we might look like anyone else. But upon closer inspection, we should find the fruit of the Spirit as evidence of our experience. In Galatians 5:22 we read,

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

The fact the scriptures likens these attributes to fruit indicates they can be cultivated, or grown. As we grow in Christ, the fruit of the Spirit grows in us. Or, at least it should.

I must confess I sometimes struggle with whether I’m doing this “Christian life” thing the way I’m supposed to. “Lord, this is hard!” I whine during my prayer time. “It shouldn’t be this complicated.” And usually, in the middle of my whining the Lord reminds me it really isn’t all that complicated. Love God and love everyone else, because love covers a multitude of sins. Ah, simplicity.

So—what’s love got to do with it? Just everything.

Copyright © Wendy Lanier 2010, used by permission.

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