Breaking Beyond Our Broken Language of Love

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Matthew 22:37–40 (NIV)

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

CONSIDER THIS

We often hear people speak of “love languages.” It is a framework for helping people discover what conveys and communicates love to them. For instance, my love language is food—like fresh hotdogs from the food stand at Costco, or donuts from the Krispy Kreme with the hot sign on. Frankly, I am not so concerned with love languages as I am the language of love. You will see why in a minute. Our language of love is woefully inadequate. 

Why didn’t Jesus say, “Love the Lord your God with all your good deeds and all your money and all your helpful acts of service and all your encouraging words and with your hands and your feet and otherwise diligent activity”?

“Well, that’s what he meant,” you say, adding, “He said those kinds of things in other places.” “Well,” I say . . . with a long pause . . . “Yes and no.” Jesus references “heart, soul, and mind” here to say that love does not begin with one’s behavior or action but in a much deeper place: our inmost being. In fact, love does not begin with us but with God. Watch how AP (Apostle Paul) tells us we really have no idea what love is:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1–3)

The word being used here by both Jesus and Paul for love is agape. It is the same word used by John in his first letter when he says, “God is love.” We are now bumping into the limitation of the English language when it comes to the word love. Just like Eskimos have multiple words for snow, the ancients had multiple words for love. There is storge love which is the love of family; philae love which is the brotherly love of friendship; eros love which is the love of romance. Into this context comes agape love, which is not another degree of love but love of another order of magnitude. Agape is not just the love of God. Agape is the love who is God. 

Follow the logic. Jesus commands us to do what only God can do because this is who God is. This means we are commanded to become like God in whose very image we are made. We are commanded not to behave in the ways of love but to actually become love. Far deeper than our behavior, the love of God is our identity. This is why the command centers in this deepest place of our inmost being (i.e. heart, soul, mind) which God created first when he first created us.1 It’s why this is not a quest for achievement but a path of awakening to ultimate reality. It is about becoming who we most truly and deeply are. 

Here’s the good news: There is a place at the core of our being, our inmost being, which was created by God and stamped with his image. This is the place meant for the deepest most abiding attachment to God, to our self, and to others. Here’s the bad news: Because of the corruption of our ancient ancestors passed all the way to the present day, our inmost being, the place of our truest identity, deepest wellness, and most profound life is also the place of our greatest brokenness. And that brokenness is most fundamentally in our attachments to God, ourselves, and others.

Here’s the good news: while we were yet broken and separated sinners, God sent his son, Jesus Christ, to restore the bond, to recover the lost union, to redeem the brokenness through renovating the abiding attachment. This is the love, once received from God, that restores our soul, and reclaims our heart, and revivifies our mind that can be returned to God and received yet again and then given to others and then received from others throughout the endless ages of eternity’s years.2 This is the divine possibility available to us every single day of our lives. 

This is “the possibility” named by the poet in the early days of this journey, “of a human life whose terms are heaven’s and this earth’s.” This, my friends, is the fruit of the Spirit: Divine Love. 

Wake up, sleeper! As Pastor Ben Crismon says every week in his benediction to the beautiful saints at the St. James United Methodist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas: God loves you and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.  

THE PRAYER

Farmer Father God, thank you for who you are. You are not love because you love; rather, you love because you are very Love itself. And thank you that you would do the same in us; that you would transform us into the very love which is who you are and that you would do it by attaching yourself to us in the deepest bonded way and that all of our life would spring from that place of Light and Life and yes Love. And thank you for Jesus, apart from whom we have no idea of any of this and yet in whose life we see all of this. Holy Spirit, prepare us to deal with our broken attachments that we might be healed and deeply whole. Praying in Jesus’s name, amen. 

THE QUESTION

Are you grasping this concept of agape love and how it is in a category of its own and how it is the very nature and character of God? Are you seeing how love (agape) must first transform our identity before it can transform our actions?

NOTES FOR FURTHER REFLECTION

  1. This is why Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount would redefine sin not as bad behavior but as deep inward brokenness. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27–28) Notice the location of the sin is not in the actual act of infidelity but in the inmost being—the heart. It comes from a place of broken attachment and in so many cases is a misguided effort to heal this brokenness through not only destroying one attachment (i.e. marriage) but establishing another broken attachment. 
  2. This is why “love” is both the seed and the fruit of the Spirit. This is why the scripture says “God is love and those who live in love live in God and God in them.” (1 John 4:16). 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

3 COMMENTS

  1. J D, a thought came to my mind as as I prayed your prayer. The Trinity revealed, “ that all of our life would spring from that place of Light (Jesus, the light of the world) and life) and Life (Spirit, the breath of life breathed into the nostrils of Adam) and yes Love ( the Father, the very essence of love).” These jars of clay do indeed contain the treasure of heaven.

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