We have spent the last month looking at all kinds of love — from the love within families for siblings and spouses, to a parent’s love for a child, to our own love for things as diverse as a hearty meal or Indiana basketball.
Even a superficial understanding of love surely covers a lot of territory. We have wondered — even longed for — the possibility of a love that was different than what we are used to. Deep down there is a strong thread of hope that a love could be found that would last, that wouldn’t have impure motives, that would stretch and reach beyond even our wildest imagination. Can we ever know what that love is?
Musicians have been asking that question for centuries. Think for a moment about a popular British-American rock band that was formed in 1976 and still tours today. This group has had an album spend more weeks on the Billboard chart at No. 1 than any album by AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, U2, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Genesis, Phil Collins, Eric Clapton and a host of others. They have had nine top 10 hits — a feat that is one less than the Eagles, but as many or more than Fleetwood Mac, Journey, ZZ Top, Alice Cooper, David Bowie or even Bob Dylan. Their single, “Waiting For a Girl Like You,” was at No. 2 on the Billboard singles chart for 14 weeks — still a record.
But Foreigner only had a single No. 1 song — “I Want to Know What Love Is” — popular partially because it asked a question that all of us wrestle to know. It eludes us, we chase it, we fall in it and think we fall out of it. We use the word in many ways most every day, but we all want to make sure that we really understand what love is.
Would you be surprised to know that the Bible actually asks and answers that very question? From the quill of an almost 90-year-old apostle near the close of the first century, John rhetorically asks how can any of us really know how to love each other. Listen to how the Good News Translation version of the Bible phrases his answer.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, because love comes from God. And God showed his love for us by sending his only Son into the world, so that we might have life through him. This is what love is: It is not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven. Dear friends, if this is how God loved us, then we should love one another” (1 John 4:7, 9-10 GNT).
Without meaning to be preachy, John shares two really important lessons about love. First, love comes from God. If I show any kind of love — compassionate, kind, enduring, faithful — it is because I am mimicking a sliver of the love of God in my life. If I want to demonstrate my love for someone else, I need to try to love them as God would love them.
Second, a relationship with God doesn’t depend on me first loving God. That is the kind of love we humans often share. I love you because you were first good to me. God shows us a love of another kind — he loved us when we were doing everything against him. And if we accept this love from him, he will forgive us for those times when we weren’t — and aren’t — very lovable.
Do you remember that bubble gum love song by Paul McCartney that is only heard on the oldies stations? Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs. The first silly love song I ever learned went like this: “Jesus loves me, this I know.”
And what’s wrong with that?
— Tom May is the Minister of Discipleship at Eastside Christian Church in Jeffersonville. He is an adjunct instructor in the Communications Department at Indiana University Southeast.