Love always looks like something
It is the season of love with Valentine’s day being in February. Everything becomes a combination of pink and red, prices of flowers go up, dinner reservations go crazy, millions of teddy bears are sold and Clintons and the Card factory reel in the profits. Apparently, according to research, Valentine’s Day is the most popular day of the year to propose to your partner too. St Valentine himself was a Roman Priest committed to enabling soldiers to marry secretly, at a time where marriage had been prohibited by the emperor Claudius. He was eventually caught and brutally martyred, love looks like sacrifice. How often do we think of love as sacrificial?
In the Bible, love is central because God is central and God is love. The New Testament Greek has four words for love, Eros, Phileo, Storge and Agape. Agape refers to the highest form of love, a term that defines God’s immeasurable, incomparable love for us. It is ongoing, outgoing and self-sacrificing. Agape love is active, not just a feeling or a sentiment. The greatest commandment we are given is to love [agape] God with our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love [agape] our neighbour as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40). Jesus calls us to love [agape] our enemies and those that persecute us (Matthew 5:44). This is not the romantic, pink and fluffy kind of love that Valentine’s day usually conjures up. Even the call of the love between a husband and a wife: husbands are called to love their wives like Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25). So, what is this love like? This love is patient, this love is kind, this love does not envy or boast. This love isn’t proud or rude or selfish. This love is not easily angered, and it doesn’t keep a record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:1). This love always hopes and perseveres, this love never fails and this love puts others first.
In September 2016, Mexico hosted the World Triathlon Series in Cozumel, Jonny Brownlee was leading comfortably heading into the final kilometre, but then he started to weave across the course, massively affected by the heat. He was swiftly overtaken by Henri Schoeman who won the race. Jonny, weakened by the heat, stopped at the side of the road, but to the amazement of all watching, Alistair Brownlee, who was in third place, scooped his brother up and put his arm around him and all but carried him for the final few hundred metres and in a beautiful act of love, he pushed his brother across the finish line so that he could take second place. Love is not self-seeking. Love puts the other first. Love is what enables us to carry each other. Love is sacrificing your own success for others. Love is learning to play second fiddle. Love is the greatest act to shock the world. Love is an action, Love is a decision, Love is a person and His name is Jesus. It is love that motivated the God of the universe to pursue his beloved creation, it is love that motivated God to send his Son Jesus to this earth to die so that we could be reconciled to God.
We are implored to live in love, in fact Jesus assures us that we will be known to other people as belonging to Christ by one marked behaviour – simply because of the way that we love one another (John 13:35). That is the mark of the people of God. Love always looks like something. Would people see an agape style love from our lives? Does the love that we embody have the fragrance of Christ?
Where do we need to remember that we belong to Jesus and his mark on us, our defining characteristics, are all borne from the way that we love [agape] one another?
By Joya Pal-George