How would you define love? In a marriage or with children? Through our friendships or in the work place or lecture hall. What about with a girlfriend or boyfriend? Toward other Christians? What does it mean to love? What are the limits of love? When should love stop loving?
The dictionary definition of love is: ‘To feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone.’ Or ‘To have a great interest and pleasure in something.’ Is that love?
Jim Morrison, the frontman of The Doors who died in 1971 at 28 said “A true friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself…Whatever you happen to be feeling at the moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is: good, bad, ugly, whatever.” Really? Is that love – to allow a friend to be ugly and bad?
Toby Flood, England Fly-Half on and off since 2006 with 57 caps said “We need to love one another in a way that doesn’t want to change each other. Just accept the imperfections we perceive.” Is that love?
Noah Glass, co-inventor of Twitter in 2007 said “Love is marvellous. We can love people. And then of course it can hurt and we need to stop loving them and protect ourselves from further damage. And move on.” Love deserts when the going gets tough? How do you feel about that? How would you define love?
Jesus’ definition of true battle-field ready, warrior-hard, blood-spilling love
‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ (John 13: 34-35)
Three times Jesus says ‘love one another’. Each time he says it he attaches it to an image. They are perhaps not the images we have in mind when we think about love:
i. It is a call to war: the call to take arms by a commander to troops.
‘A new command I give you’ is military language for a call to engage in battle. The language suggests the blood earnest battle shout to arms of a general to his forces or a captain rallying his team to hard, bruising action.
Loving well requires soldier-like grit and courage. True love is like a battlefield. Are you ready to fight?
ii. It is a call to death: the call to die at the very hands of those you love.
‘As I have loved you’ means love others like Jesus loved us. It means death, blood, brutality, and sacrifice for the sake and at the hand of those you are loving. It is not sentimental! When does this love stop or give up? At what point is the cost too great to carry on loving?
Loving well means dying at the hands of those we love. True love is like a crucifix. Are you ready to die?
iii. It is a call be to known: a call to be distinctively Jesus’ disciples.
‘By this everyone will know you are my disciples.’ Jesus’ death for us was a public sceptical not a private, reclusive event. It is love publicly communicated as because we are Jesus’ disciples. It is our new marker of belonging to Jesus.
Loving well means people know we love because of Jesus. True loves is like a megaphone. Are you ready to be known?
What is your love like? As a husband or boyfriend? To work colleagues? In friendships? As a wife? With your children? As a girlfriend? With your money and time?
· Is it the obedience of a soldier to his commander’s call to arms? Hard, strong, battle-ready, resolute.
· Is it ready and willing to be bloodied, bruised, battered and buried even at the hands of the ones you love?
· Is it distinct because you are Jesus’ disciple?
Who do you need to love like this? What would this type of love look like for you this week? What does it mean for the way you are a husband and a father?