Hi person reading this! Hello. Shalom. Hola. *Insert random cultural greeting*. It has been an interesting couple of weeks in the life of Aaron Israel (That’s me). Why should you care? Well, if I’m being real…you probably shouldn’t. Yeah. Probably a huge waste of your time honestly. Go do something meaningful with your life. Cool bye.
If you didn’t take my advice and are still here, well first, you are probably the only person who will read this. So congrats? But anywaysss, if you are still here, allow me to extend you an invitation into my current environment: as I write these words, I am seated in Appalachian State University’s student union with a couple of my buddies, Dakota and Matt. At this very moment, Dakota is staring intently out the window we’re sitting next to (he has no clue I’m currently writing about him). What or who is Dakota staring at? Well I’m not positive, but it looks like he is people-watching. Creepy, am I right? Ok ok, I’m just busting his chops…everyone does it. He is one weird dude though…for other reasons…love you bro 😉. But I digress. The people he is watching are hanging out on a grassy field that all ASU students know as Sanford mall. They know it as a place they can enjoy the outdoors; students congregate here to play frisbee, throw football, slack-line, or even just lay in the sun and read a good book. But a couple weeks ago, it was also a place where Dakota and I watched a preacher stand and berate students about how sinful they are and how they were going to hell.
Now, I could write an entire blog post that just focuses on belligerent campus preachers and why they grossly misrepresent Christianity. And I probably will in the future. But right now, I just want to use this opportunity to ask the question “what is love?”. Because this man who was preaching to students on Sanford probably somehow saw what he was doing as loving. But I can assure you that the crowd he was preaching at didn’t see it as loving in the slightest. Myself included. But when it comes to defining what real love actually is, you would probably receive a myriad of opinions from that crowd of students. ASU is a liberal university, so in all likelihood, many of them would not only view this particular preacher’s message as unloving, but would also view, for example, the Biblical stance on sexuality as unloving as well. But those same people would also struggle to provide any meaningful, objective definition of what love is. And that is because our culture has a distorted understanding of love. It’s meaning is often viewed as purely subjective, which means that each and every individual decides for themselves what love means to them. Do you see the problem with that? If love is subjective and its meaning changes from individual to individual, then no one can ever call another person out for being unloving. Are you tracking with me? So, if love is subjective, we can’t say that an angry campus preacher yelling at students is being unloving, because according to his personal, subjective definition of love, he actually is being loving. If love is subjective, hate groups like Westboro Baptist Church aren’t actually hate groups, they just have a different definition of what love is. Do you see where I’m going with this? If love is subjective, love CAN MEAN ANYTHING. And when love can mean anything, it no longer has any defining characteristics…and it loses ALL meaning. This can’t be true right? Love DOES mean something. But what? What does it mean? To answer this question, we must first acknowledge that love does indeed have an inherent objective meaning. But then, we must also acknowledge that the only way love could have an objective meaning is if it is rooted in God’s nature. So, we must ask the question, “How does God define love”? Well turns out, he gives us a pretty solid definition in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7:
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Pretty good definition, right? This is what God says about love. One thing that is interesting about this; God defines love as primarily an action. Love is patient. Kind. Isn’t jealous. Isn’t arrogant. Does not act unbecomingly. Forgives. Rejoices with the truth. Now ask yourself, how do you recognize when someone is being patient or kind to you? By that person’s actions, right? You know someone is kind because of their kind actions. You know someone is patient because they act patiently with you. Forgiveness is also expressed through action. Someone who “Rejoices with the truth” is someone who strives to reflect truth with their actions. You get the idea. But God didn’t just tell us what love is, he demonstrated what love is when he gave up his life for us by dying on that cross. All that God says about love can be summed up by his selfless choice to suffer and die for all of humanity. Now THAT is love.
So what is love? It is a choice. An action. At it’s very core, love is a selfless, unconditional, sacrificial, action made for another person. Selfless sacrifice that is infused and guided by the desire for God’s truth to be fully realized in that person’s life.
Knowing this, let us strive to love others like God does, with reckless abandon, but always guided by his truth. Pastor Timothy Keller said it well:
“Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it.”