My Dad was educated in the old fashioned style, learning Latin and logarithms and excruciatingly correct grammar in all things. We were never allowed to get away with any inconsistencies or inaccuracies around him…different from, not different to; my brother and I, not me and my brother etc. etc. He was particularly scathing about our use of the words love and hate. It was not possible that I hate my brother, no matter how irritating he was being, nor could I truly love chocolate. Frustrating as it was at the time, I have to admit that he did have a point. In the English language we are impoverished for words of love to begin with, only having one word to describe all of the varied and nuanced kinds of loving relationships we might experience. And we continually use of the word ‘love’ to describe our preference for ice cream, sports teams, shoes, cars, etc. – things that we cannot actually be in relationship with. And so our sense of what love truly is has become skewed and reduced.
Reading chapter 13 of Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth is a good way to reset our understanding of love, but sometimes even this beautiful and profound description slips into ungraspable familiarity. When that happens, sometimes it helps me to dwell in the overwhelming Otherness of Love if I try and put it in my own words – so here’s my version of
Love is not limited to the duration of your earthly life or conditional on your positive response. Love does not favour one over another or make distinctions between ‘saved’ and ‘lost’.
Love does not keep a record of wrongs, has no plan to publicly shame you with your failings or question why you did what you do. Love already knows.
Love forgives all things, holds all things, denies nothing.
Love is not bound by rules or constrained by its own purity.
Love allows rejection and rebellion in order to give us complete freedom to choose Love: Love hopes for acceptance and invites us into partnership in love, not submission and obedience in fear.
Love does not control or manipulate either people or circumstances but in all things Love works for good.
Love breaks down barriers, unites and reunites.
Love calls out love, draws out love, longs to be known.
Love is able to take pain and suffering and transform them into wisdom and compassion.
Love never gives up, never holds back, never turns away. Love works patiently and gently; Love overflows itself, bubbling out; it’s joy cannot be contained.
God is Love; Love is not a choice God makes or an attribute of God, but God’s very nature, and Jesus came to show us, in his living and his dying and rising, the depth and height and breadth of this Love that chooses us, has always chosen us and will always choose us.
I wonder what would your version of a description of Love looks like?