“God is calling us to so greatly love others that we do not desire for them anything that might separate them from God.” – Rosaria Butterfield
This quote not only speaks to how I ought to love my students and coworkers, but how I ought to love everyone who crosses my path. It’s a challenging quote, because it calls me to sacrificial love. It’s a love that puts the good of the other ahead of my own comfort.
I’ve been contemplating the meaning of friendship lately. I think my biggest question in relation to my friends is, how do I best love this person? Rosaria’s quote above really speaks to the meaning of love and what I desire for my friends.
To love someone well means relying on God for wisdom, even to know what love is and what love demands in each circumstance. I am continually confronted with the reality that I do not know how to love. My love is often confused with sympathy, or tainted with my own selfish desires.
So often I’d just like to have a set of rules that tells me how to behave. I’ve had this old book on Etiquette for years, and there’s something tempting about reading it and knowing exactly what the “polite” thing to do is, and how to behave in a socially acceptable way. But then I am confronted by Jesus with the woman at the well; Jesus accepting having his feet washed lavishly with perfume and long hair; Jesus eating with tax collectors. While He didn’t necessarily set out to break all the rules and offend people, He certainly didn’t let social conventions stop Him from loving people.
In my sermon notes from June 12th, I wrote this: “Christ is the love of God embodied in a person.” (I don’t remember if that was a direct quote from Joe or not?) Then later, I wrote this down: “Love means we obey God with respect to the person.”
Those two truths really say it all when it comes to love, don’t they? Christ is the very definition of love, and by walking in obedience to God, we are being conformed to His loving nature.
So, does love confront sometimes? “In the gospels, Jesus seemed to be confronting and rebuking His disciples and others with an extreme forcefulness. Jesus was driven by tenderness and compassion to deal forthrightly and convincingly with any issue that might have separated His loved ones from Him.”[i]
I’d rather avoid lovingly confronting someone because it’s uncomfortable and I don’t want to deal with their potentially negative response, or experience rejection. But if I don’t do it, then I’m failing to love that person.
How do I receive it when someone confronts me? As uncomfortable as it may be at the time, and although my initial feeling might be anger or annoyance, if I’m wise I will dismiss those feelings quickly and consider their words carefully. Mostly when this has happened, what I actually end up experiencing is gratitude that the person loves me enough to risk being honest with me.
Love is a risky thing. As C. S. Lewis said, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
It’s riskier not to love.
[i] Intrater, K. (1989). Covenant Relationships. Shippensburg: Destiny Image.