“Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments. Love is not love, which alters when, it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to Remove: O no! It is an ever-fixed mark…Love’s not Time’s fool…Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks but bears it out even to the edge of doom.”
Hearing this segment of William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 119 being quoted continually by the young, passionate Miss Dashwood of Jane Austin’s Sense & Sensibility got me thinking about the love of Jesus. O Lord, I thought, Shakespeare, who was himself a sinful son of man actually set a really high standard for human love. How much more then, should I love God? But I struggle so to keep my affections centered on Jesus, to consistently keep my heart and sights fixed upon him. Logically, my inability to love Jesus consistently must indicate that I am also doomed to struggle at loving His people: my family, friends, and future spouse, the way 1 Corinthians 13 or Exodus 20 (the commandments) instruct us to. After pondering the above, reading some books and searching the Scriptures, I thanked Jesus for the comforting thought that it was He who first chose to love me. He first set the bar for love, whether it is human or divine. If you have ever struggled to love (humans or God) then let’s explore together …
The first question: How do I love Jesus with everything?
In Colossians, Paul pronounced that we must take possession of what we already have in Christ and devote ourselves to it. The Webster’s dictionary explains the word devote as to consecrate, give up oneself, or one’s life, efforts etc. exclusively to (God), zealously loving or loyal – fanatically pious person . In 1 Corinthians 14 vs.1 we, as disciples of Jesus, are told that love is our highest goal. To reach this goal we must love Jesus (Matt 22vs.37-39). We must become passionate for Him. And so, yes, as I have already stated, our zealous loyalty and consecration wane regularly, but passion for God is acquired not given, we must grab a hold of it. It is an act of the will, we must decide. We have to develop a hunger for Jesus, and walk with the Holy Spirit daily, so that Faith, Hope and Love, and the Fruits of the Spirit are born and grow within us. Warren W. Wiersbe, author of Be Complete put it beautifully, “In the language of the New Testament, to be filled means to be ‘controlled by’. When we are filled with anger, we are controlled by anger. To be ‘filled with the Spirit’ (Eph 5vs.18), means to be ‘controlled by the Spirit’”. For one to be ‘filled with Jesus’ who is love, means to be controlled by love. The flesh has not won. We, (you and I) are dead to sin, and Jesus has overcome, but it takes God to love God. In grace and mercy He looks favourably upon our weakness and imperfection, and allows us to come before Him and place our affections on Him.
The second question: How do I give this love to others, romantically and unromantically?
To summarise the definitions of the Greek words for love used in the Bible: Phileo refers to love for friends and family, Eros has to do with sexual, erotic love, and Agape refers to God’s love for us. My conviction is that love is an act of the will – not just intense feeling or affection. Erich Fromm says, “Some people view romance as a great mystery, some think it’s beyond their control, as if falling in love were like falling in a pond. But, the word falling is a contradiction in the terms. To “fall” in love denotes passivity, and love is the most active of occupations.” The word ‘occupation’ means a job or profession, suggesting that we must work at love”. To me, the most obvious way to “work at love” is to follow Jesus. “And now I will show you the most excellent way…4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth . It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.7 LOVE NEVER FAILS….”(1Cor 13vs.1-13). The Bible is also very clear about a husband’s responsibility to love his wife as Christ loves the church (Eph 5:25 – a most dangerous, very popular verse) and about the wife’s responsibility to love through submission to her husband.
But let’s not only get stuck on loving the one’s closest to us – although sometimes we neglect them the most, let us also remember that Jesus’ heart is for all people! As He said to Peter in John 21:
“… then feed my sheep”
“Feed my sheep”
“Feed my sheep”
Oh, I don’t think Jesus repeated that statement three times for nothing. He knew that loving people is the hardest.
I am challenged greatly by John 2:23 (NLT), “Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover Celebration, many began to trust in Him. 24 But Jesus didn’t trust them, because He knew human nature. 25 No one needed to tell Him what mankind is really like.” Jesus knew that our hearts are sinful, but He still loved. He still endured terrible hardships for us so we could ALL know the love of the Father. My own human nature demands that I constantly choose to love. But I fail dismally. We all do. But we must try again. Victor Hugo once said, “The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.” We love because He first loved us, not because we are very good at love.
So the next time I say I love you I am simply saying: “I have chosen.”