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Monday, February 13, 2012

Baby, Don't Hurt Me

What is love?

“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.”  Robert A. Heinlein
“Love is absolute loyalty.  People fade, looks fade, but loyalty never fades.”  Sylvester Stallone
“Love doesn’t make the world go round.  Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.”  Franklin P. Jones
“If you have love, you don’t need to have anything else, and if you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter much what else you have.”  Sir James M. Barrie
“A life without love in it is like a heap of ashes upon a deserted hearth, with the fire dead, the laughter stilled, and the light extinguished.”  Frank Tebbets
“Love is staying up all night with a sick child—or a healthy adult.”  David Frost
“Love is a game that two can play and both win.”  Eva Gabor
“Love is a force more formidable than any other.  It is invisible—it cannot be seen or measured, yet it is powerful enough to transform you in a moment, and offer you more joy than any material possession could.”  Barbara de Angelis
“Love is patient, love is kind…”  1 Corinthians 13:4-8

That’s just a sample of what’s out there.  Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was an easy answer to the question, “What is love?”  Actually…come to think of it, that wouldn’t be awesome at all.  If there was an easy answer to that question, think of how many movies we’d lose.  The majority of art, music, and poetry would be wiped away.  Teenagers wouldn’t have anything to distract them from homework.  Hallmark wouldn’t exist.

The horror!!

There is no easy answer, just one that comes in many forms.

God:
“The best way to know God is to love many things.”  Vincent van Gogh
“Love means to commit oneself without guarantee, to give oneself completely in the hope that our love will produce love in the loved person.  Love is an act of faith, and whoever is of little faith is also of little love.”  Erich Fromm

Some believe that you have to love yourself before you can love others—including God.  To an extent, they would even have a decent point.  One could argue that if you don’t love yourself, it is impossible to love anyone else.  However, before you are even capable of loving yourself, you have to ask, “Where does love come from?”

God.

1 John 4:7-8 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does, not love God, because God is love.”

God has graced us with the ability to love; therefore, it is impossible to love ourselves without accepting His gift.  How selfish would it be if we accepted that gift and first used it on ourselves rather than the Giver?

That last question applies to all things.  God has given us everything.  He didn’t have to, but He did.  Praise Him for those gifts.  Praise Him at all times, good or bad.  Love Him at all times, good or bad.  Besides, it is commanded of us.  The Bible is full of commands, but which one is the most important?  We all know that story:

Mark 12:28-31 “One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating.  Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’

“‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”  The second is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  There is no commandment greater than these.’”

I love you, O Lord, my strength. –Psalm 18:1

Self:
“The more anger towards the past you carry in your heart, the less capable you are of loving in the present.”  Barbara de Angelis

Yes, you should love others before yourself, but I will tackle that fun area later.  You have to love yourself.  Some believe that is arrogance.  I disagree.  God made you, which means that you are good.  How can you not love that?  Not loving yourself is telling God that you don’t love His gift.  He saw you as good, but you despise the package?  Loving yourself isn’t arrogance.  Loving yourself to the point that you insist others be like you is.

That being said, while you can love who you are, you should never settle.  I constantly tell others how amazingly awesome I am.  It is always said in a very tongue-in-cheek manner, but the truth is—I love who I am.  However, I cannot grow complacent with who I am.  I must look at who I want to be, and strive to reach that level.  I can honestly say that I am a better person today than I was yesterday, and my desire is to be a better person tomorrow than I am today.

That persistent drive for improvement is what I love most about myself. J

God saw you as good when He made you.  He still does.  Yes, you have flaws…who doesn’t?  Love yourself.  Look at yourself and see the good.  See God’s good.  Yet at the same time, acknowledge that we were made from clay and are in constant need of reshaping.

Jesus says in John 15: 10-11 “‘If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.’”

Spouse:
“At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet.”  Plato
“Those who love deeply never grow old; they may die of old age, but they die young.”  Arthur Pinero
“The sweetest of all sounds is that of the voice of the (one) we love.”  Jean Bruyere
“You know you are in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”  Dr. Seuss

It’s cliché to say that there is no “sign” when it comes to falling in love.  You just…know.  Well…it’s cliché for a reason.  It’s true.  If you have to ask if you’re in love with someone, then you’re not.  The biggest trap people fall into when it comes to loving a potential spouse is believing their feelings are love when they are really feeling infatuation.

How can you avoid this trap?  Let’s size them up:

Infatuation                                                Love

You see the other person as perfect
You see the other person’s flaws and still love them
You spend all of your time with the other person
You still spend time with others
You quickly “fall” for the other person
You take time to allow the relationship to grow
You experience jealousy frequently
Trust and understanding results in NO jealousy
Distance puts a strain to the relationship
Your relationship survives and is strengthened because of distance
Your quarrels seriously damage the relationship
Your quarrels result in a stronger relationship
Sex (or the possibility of it) drives the relationship forward
Sex is not the present focus because you know you will have a lifetime of it with this person


Infatuation is dinner and movies and making out in the car.  Love is burnt popcorn and old reruns and holding hands on the couch while discussing the future.

“Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.”  Antoine de Saint-Exupery

When you’re in love with someone, you have the big talks about your future.  You can’t just keep trekking forward if your goals will eventually take you in opposite directions.  There’s a line on How I Met Your Mother that fits perfectly here.  In one episode, roommates Marshall and Ted are discussing who gets the apartment when one of them gets married.  Ted says, “Who cares?  That’s future-Marshall and Ted’s problem, let them deal with it.”  Applied here: That’s infatuation talking.  If you want children, but your potential spouse does not—that needs to be a discussion before you get married, not two or three years into marriage.  Your individual future plans matter, but not as much your future plans together.  You need to be on the same page.  You need to be on the same road.  You need to be heading in the same direction.

“Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.”  Aristotle
“We were given: Two hands to hold.  Two legs to walk.  Two eyes to see.  Two ears to listen.  But why only one heart?  Because the other was given to someone else for us to find.”  Unknown

Sehnsucht.  It’s a German word that doesn’t have an exact translation.  “Yearning,” “craving,” and “intensely missing” come close.  CS Lewis described it as a longing in the heart for “we know not what.”  Basically, a sehnsucht is something you are constantly searching for, even if you aren’t consciously aware that that’s what you’re doing.  It’s not until you find it that you understand just how lost you were without it.

Your spouse is your sehnsucht.  Your heart is longing for someone, you just don’t know who that is right now.  Without that person, you feel incomplete.  When you find them, a hole that you didn’t even realize was missing from your life fills to the brim.

When God made man, He quickly realized that man needed a partner, so He made woman.  That’s how we became complete.  Alone, we are one.  Together with our spouse, we are One.  Whole.  Talk with happily married couples.  Most will tell you the same thing: Where I am weak, my spouse is strong.  Where my spouse is weak, I am strong.  Together, we are capable of anything.

A man in love mistakes a pimple for a dimple. –Japanese proverb

Others:
“The more I think about it, the more I realize there is nothing more artistic than to love others.”  Vincent van Gogh
“The one thing we can never get enough of is love.  And the one thing we never give enough of is love.”  Henry Miller
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”  Mother Teresa

Why is it we mistake a pimple for a dimple on our spouse, yet are so quick to notice the splinter in the eye of everyone else?  What did Jesus say the number one commandment was?  Love the Lord.  Number two?  Love your neighbor.  Not yourself…not your spouse…not your friends…everyone.

A lot of people don’t like that part of the verse, so they apply it as they see fit.  They believe the Golden Rule and an “eye for an eye” mean the same thing.  “If someone does unto you…you may return in kind.”  Wrong.  You are to love everyone, even if they have hurt you in some way, because what else was said earlier?  “Whoever does not love, does not love God, because God is love.”

What else did Jesus say?  Matthew 5:43-44 “‘You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’”

Loving your enemy does not mean hugging them and thanking them for their misdeed.  If someone has wronged you, pray.  Pray for them.  Pray that you can forgive them.  Do not seek vengeance.  Do not pray, “Dear God…get them!”

Let’s look at this another way: Are you so naïve and arrogant to think that you have never wronged someone else?  If we despised everyone that wronged us, and everyone that we have wronged despised us, we would constantly live in hate.

Who is the master of hate?

Not God.  God is love.

1 John 4:9-12 “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

And so we pray for, sacrifice for, work for, weep over, laugh with our enemies.  When we do, we show the world what Jesus is all about. –Dan Wolgemuth

God’s Love for Us:
I have spent the early stages of this blog dealing with grief.  I have talked about how being a Christian is hard work.  How you will endure pain and suffering in your walk with Christ.  But make no mistake about it—God loves you.

God loves you.

God loves you.

It doesn’t matter how you phrase it, what an awesome feeling.

How do we know that He loves us?  As Christians, we are promised a one-way ticket to Heaven.  Eternal glory.  The ultimate gift.  We do not deserve this gift.  We are unworthy of eternal glory.  Why?  Because of sin.  I’ve talked a lot about grief, but why does grief exist?  Sin.  Before sin, there was only happiness and love.  God gave us life, happiness, and love…and we screwed it all up.

Get it?  We wronged God.  You get all pissed off when someone cuts you off in traffic.  You flip them off and shout swears.  They wronged you, and you will have your pound of flesh!!

Um…WE WRONGED GOD.

Yet He forgave us.

How?

Love.

He demonstrated this love by sending His only Son to die.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
1 John 3:16 “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”

“A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.”  Mahatma Gandhi

In the history of time, who better illustrates that than Jesus?

His resume:
·        One of His friends sold Him out, telling the cops where they could find Him.  Another friend would later deny that he even knew Jesus.
·        Jesus Christ lived the only sinless life here on earth, yet was arrested and sentenced to death.  Think about that: How can He be guilty of any crime if He has not even sinned?  *Side note: Jesus healed the ear of the man that arrested Him.  That’s love.*
·        He was scoured.  This is a whip with nine strings, each with a piece of bone or glass attached to the end.  It would literally shred the skin off a person’s back.  The Romans learned that 40 whips would kill a man…so Jesus received 39.
·        He was then blindfolded and slapped/punched in the face by pretty much anyone that wanted a shot.
·        They spit on Him.
·        They took a crown of thorns and placed it on His head.  To make sure it stayed there, they hit Him on the head with sticks so the thorns dug into his scalp.
·        He was forced to carry His own cross to His crucifixion.  Now…from what I’ve read, it was more likely just the cross beam, and not the whole thing…still, that’s like someone making you dig your own grave.  Plus, it weighed about 40 pounds, He would have had to walk anywhere from two football fields to half-a-mile (I couldn’t find exactly how far He walked with it), and He would have been severely weakened from the hours of beatings he endured.
·        Finally, He was crucified.  Nails the size of railroad spikes were driven into each wrist and feet.  When one is crucified, one often dies from a lack of oxygen.  Basically, you’re hunched over, which prevents enough oxygen from get into your lungs.  In order to receive enough oxygen, you have to straighten your spine.  In order to straighten your spine, you have to push up on the spikes driven into your feet.  Eventually, exhaustion sets in, and you can’t push up any longer.

The only sinless man in the history of the world went through all of that—for us.  For me.  For you.  For the man that arrested Him.  For the soldiers who scoured Him.  For the people who punched Him.  Spit on Him.  He loves us so much that He died just so we—a world who had done (and continues to do) nothing but wrong Him—could know the glory of God.

What is love?  I have quoted many scholars who have provided a variety of reasonable responses to this challenging question: Gandhi, Plato, Mother Teresa, and Aristotle to name a few.

Last week, my five-year-old niece said to her dad, “Nails didn’t hold Jesus to the cross.  Love did.”

Maybe the answer to that question isn’t so difficult after all.

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