Thursday, September 18, 2014

On Love Expressed and the Christian Life

Dear Coffee Talkers,

I was recently reading an article talking about the importance of expressing our love for our family and friends, and citing some examples of ways to express our affection rather than just assuming these relationships would continue to run on auto-pilot from the efforts we'd perhaps made in the past or simply from an ongoing feeling of mutual affection, un-fueled by current expressions of kindness. Some of the ideas for showing our affection included sending a text message or an e-mail, giving the person a phone call, and sending a letter or a simple gift.

While I liked the idea of the article, there was something about it that seemed incomplete to me. In grappling with what ideas might be missing, I considered an important thought about the Christian life and love: that true love expressed always seeks the good of the other and is sacrificial, not selfish. This is not to suggest that the ideas of communicating with another person in simple ways or sending cards and gifts is not part of an expression of someone's affection, but to point out that, despite Hallmark's persuasive marketing scheme, perhaps simply giving someone a greeting card does not truly represent 'the very best' that love has to offer.

I think it's fair to say that most people have experienced the development of a new friendship, a fresh crush, or a blossoming romance and the ambivalent emotions that can accompany this experience. At first, we might see the other person entirely through rose colored glasses, so to speak, and we can be easily carried away by the excitement that accompanies every smile, text message, phone call, and card we receive. Soon, however, we may find that the relationship is put to some kind of test and that it has either grown stale or has become one-sided. Maybe we are the only one sending texts and cards, or perhaps the other person is giving 'gifts' that do not really consider our good but are intended to manipulate and get something from us that they want. We may realize that one or the other of us has a need that the other party is not willing or able to meet, and we realize that perhaps this was never really love at all but instead an arrangement of feel-good convenience at best and mutual using at worst.

While some may think that hate is the opposite of love, a Christian worldview offers the possibility that using another person is that which is most contrary to loving them, or caring for their ultimate good. When I merely use someone to meet my own selfish needs, true love can never enter into the picture.  I must stop using, and being used, if I ever hope to enter into a truly loving relationship, one in which both parties truly consider the good of the other and enter into a love of reciprocal self-gift.

In Christianity, we see this ultimate model of sacrificial, selfless, and life-giving love in action: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son..." This is agape love, the love of self-sacrifice. This type of love does not seek to take anything, and while it is open to receiving back an offering of love from the beloved, it never demands or requires reciprocity for its gift to be given.

Next time we consider how to express our love for our family and friends, let us truly consider the needs of the other person, place their good above our own, and put into action this love of self-sacrifice. Let us be willing to give the gift of our very selves, and to take the chance that even when sacrificial love is unrequited it is its own reward because it is the most true to our highest calling and destiny. Because when we care enough to send the very best, it will rarely involve a greeting card but will always require self-sacrifice, a sacrifice that will bear fruit in both this life and in eternity.

As always, thanks for stopping by. Be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

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