Our society talks a lot about love. It is portrayed in movies, sang about in songs, placed on t-shirts (eg., “I [heart] _____”), and painted on posters (e.g., “Give love a chance” “Make love, not war”). But the love of the world is, too often, romanticized and superficial. After all, many in Hollywood know nothing of devoted commitment of the characters they portray. Music celebrities are often known for their activities with groupies after the gigs. T-shirts are mere pieces of cloth, and those at protest rallies with posters crying out for love are often vessels of hatred, spewing out, “Burn in hell!” Die, you pigs!” “Damn you!” to all who disagree with their position.
The world’s version(s) of love is childish, fairy-tale make believe. The world’s version is like a marshmallow, a squishy puff of sugar. However, authentic love has substance of bone and flesh, so to speak, having an actual anatomy.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-6
Now, let’s consider briefly the anatomy, or structure, of love:
Patient (or long-suffering) – love bears with other’s differences, quirks, and mistakes without becoming quickly annoyed or rejecting hastily.
Kind – love is gentle and benevolent.
Content – love is not competitive; it is not envious when someone else has nor does it boast when someone else does not have.
Humble – love views others with equality of worth; it does not show partiality nor is it filled with contempt for others. Love does not feel superior to others.
Selfless – love does not demand its own way but considers the needs and wants of others.
Levelheaded / Forgiving – love does not keep tally each time another fails, demanding absolute perfection. Love does not nurse a grudge to keep such bitterness alive.
Righteous / Honest – love does not not delight in evil or harm of others, nor does it take any delight in falsehood, gossip, or slander.
When fleshed out, love has real substance. Genuine love is not for the weak. Any fool can get angry, be rude, refuse to forgive, or desire harm to another. Any fool can scream profanities and derogatory statements in the midst of a rally. And any fool can look upon another with such contempt and hatred easily enough.
It is easy to betray a friendship when one does not get his or her own way. It is easy to curse another rather than taking the time to understand them. However, what is hard, what is extremely difficult, is having genuine benevolence for others simply because they are human beings, regardless if they are like us, or attractive to us, or even kind toward us.
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good …Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. ~ Romans 12:9, 13-21
In the Person of Jesus Christ we have the perfect example of genuine love put into action. Jesus was kind and welcoming to the misfits and outcasts; He was gentle with people’s failures and shortcomings. While the Scriptures do show He was angry on a few occasions, it was always in connection with people’s hypocrisy, injustice, and hard-heartedness towards others; ironically, He prayed for forgiveness concerning those who persecuted and crucified Him.
Genuine love is both benevolent and sacrificial for the sake of others. For all the talk and portrayals of love in our society, do these correspond with reality? How can it when we are so busy flinging mud, refusing to see any common ground; when we have such disdain for others whose political leanings are different than ours; when the “end justifies the means” while destroying others, regardless of any deception or smoke and mirrors, as if injustice can bring about justice?
My friend, love is hard. It requires courage to lower the defenses and resolve to put off our egos. It requires humility to “turn the other cheek” and to consider the needs of others. It requires commitment to hang tight when every part of you simply wants to let go. Only as we are willing to become weak will we truly become strong.
“Hell no! That’s stupid! I’m not humbling myself for nobody!” many will say. Ah, but this is precisely why we are in the mangled, divided mess we are in today. Nevertheless, unless we are willing to humble our own selves, extend kindness, meet on some common ground, and treat others with courtesy and respect, we might as well throw away our banners and burn our placards extolling love and unity. For there is no other way these can be attained. We must study the anatomy of love and put into practice its various elements. Cursing, force, and violence will only produce more unrest, keeping us in the mangled, bloody mess we are in. Only genuine love will lead us to a productive peace and unity we claim to desire.