Friday, September 14, 2012

Love: More Verb, Less Noun

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NLT)

Henry James was saying good-by once to his young nephew, Billy, or Willie as he called him. "Willie, there are three things that are important in human life. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind." -- (adapted) Frederick Buechner, "What Are We Going to Be?," Preaching Today, Tape 56.

No doubt, you have heard it many times, but it needs to be repeated often. The kind of love most needed in the world is not the warm, fuzzy, emotional high nearly as much as it is the practical, how-we-treat-each-other behavior. Do not misunderstand statements like this as a put-down on emotional love. That would be a great misunderstanding indeed. But, we need to recognize that warm emotions, as wonderful as they are, can never do what loving behavior does.

I suspect we hesitate to believe this is true. After all, we live in an age in which emotionalism is sometimes touted as the greatest and grandest of things. As long as we all feel good, then things must be right. Yet, the world continues to suffer from bad behavior, often by the very people who are spouting the latest love-language, and pleading for emotional connection.

You need to know that despite verbal claims of love, nothing compares to loving behavior and action. But, watch how many people will fall for the words flowing from a "lover's" mouth only to be crushed by that "lover's" behavior -- and that's just one example. Even sadder is to see those same crushed people fall for the same thing over and over again, seemingly unable to comprehend the root of the problem.

I wonder how many churches have talked love, preached love, studied about love and yet failed to love people? Do you think this might have been part of the problem with the priest and the Levite who passed by the poor man beaten and left to die by the robbers? Is it possible that the Samaritan who stopped, tended to his wounds, transported him to safety and even paid for further care might have understood more about love? Why, because he was a "touchy-feely" kind of guy or because he knew what the man needed and gave it to him? Do we love the lost or do we just love to condemn the lost?

Guess what. Jesus didn't come to condemn. He came to save. And, he did that because he loved them. Don't think that's right? Go read the third chapter of John's gospel then tell me what you think. Do you love your family? Your spouse? Your neighbors? Folks in your church? Do you?

Before you answer, how do you treat these people? This is the key to understanding love and to knowing whether or not you practice love. Nobody is against warm, positive emotions. But, love needs to be more of a verb and less of a noun.