We spend our lives trying to find it and perfect its practice and, often, we obsess over it. We come together as a community to celebrate it. We mourn when we lose it. Artists paint and sing and write about it. In today’s political climate, people on both sides of the aisle claim that it is the answer to all of our problems. And it very well may be. But do we really understand it? Do we really understand love?
This year, we have been plagued by more than just the Coronavirus. While the virus has attacked human bodies, apathy, greed, pride and more evils—even hatred—have attacked our souls, and the consequences have been dire.
We have ignored good, valid ideas put forth by politicians we don’t like. Protesting is more popular than praying and, in many states, you can be punished for going to church but not for vandalizing one. We hate more loudly than we love.
I’d like to humbly offer true biblical love as the answer to our earthly problems. But I don’t think many of us understand what it means to practice and receive true biblical love.
Let’s look back at the roots of it.
In 1 John 4:8, we learn, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (NIV). We know from Genesis 1:27 that we are made in the image of God and so we are made with love in the image of love. To practice true biblical love is to follow the example of Jesus.
Loving like Jesus means calling out sin when we see it and unselfishly helping those in need. It means respecting those with whom we disagree.
In 1 Corinthians 13, we learn some attributes of love. Love is patient and kind. It neither envies nor boasts, and it is never prideful. When we love, we honor others and not ourselves and we do not become angry. Love forgives. It celebrates the truth, even if the truth is hard to accept. Love protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres—always.
Yet, too often, we practice and receive things that only look like love.
The ideas of tolerance, acceptance and coexistence are not attributes of love as outlined in the Gospels or 1 Corinthians 13. Our nation cannot be healed by these human ideals. No, our nation needs true biblical love, and those of us who follow Jesus must lead the way. We are commanded to love as he did. This means that we are kind, patient, humble, forgiving and truthful with everyone—even those who view us as their enemies. Even those that we once viewed as enemies.
Biblical love sees through false ideologies and still loves the people who are trapped in them. In the Scriptures, we see that Jesus never refrains from calling out sin—in fact, he calls people out of sin and into new life.
It is not unloving to speak hard truths, as some would have us believe. In fact, speaking hard truths is fundamentally an expression of love as we patiently and unselfishly encourage our neighbors to follow the way of Jesus “so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:19). If we all practiced true biblical love, then our country would be a very different place indeed.