That’s not love. That thought has been on repeat in my head ever since we accepted our first foster placement 11 months ago. How do you explain love – true love – agape love – to a child who has mostly only experienced selfish “love.” I can barely even bring myself to say “selfish love” because, if it’s selfish, is it really love?
So, here we are, trying to teach a person how to love. It’s hard. Because love, much like C.S. Lewis continually teaches, is a choice, not a feeling. I’ve been fortunate, I’ve never had to fight very hard for love. Kevin and I have had a fun-filled marriage and drama-free dating relationship. I love him easily every day. In fact, my love for him has grown over the past year. But when the Lord adds a person to your house, even temporarily, love is a choice. I have to choose love even when told I’m hated. Because, as the refrain in my head goes, most of the love that was shown to her wasn’t loving.
The other night, after one of the worst days that we’ve experienced, I skipped our normal Bible reading and selected 1 Corinthians 13 instead. Paraphrased, it says: If I say every word exactly right, but without love, I might as well been a clanging cymbal. If I’m the smartest person in the world and have everything figured out, but without love, I’m nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love rejoices in the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love does not envy or boast. Love is not arrogant, rude, self-seeking, or irritable. Love does not keep a record of wrongs and does not find joy in unrighteousness.
True love – agape love – follows this list. The love that God shows to us was so powerful that He sent His Son to earth for us to experience it in a way that our tiny human brains could begin to understand. He gave us the cross so that we could see love on display. He gave us the Holy Spirit so we could be guided in His love. And, every day, He gives us new mercy and grace to live a righteous life for His glory and show this love to the people around us.
A true love.
An agape love.
A love that is loving.
Love enforces rules. Love sets safe boundaries. Love encourages high expectations. Love lends a hand to accomplish worthy goals. Love cries over sin. Love gets angry over unrighteousness. Love gives every last ounce of patience and kindness that it has so that the object to whom the love was directed can understand – that this is love. Love isn’t this warm and fuzzy feeling that allows us to do whatever feels good to us.
So many people that we interact with don’t understand love. How could they? Look at the popular tv show lineups. Read the news headlines. Follow a celebrity’s Instagram. Our culture has distorted true love into something so twisted it needs a new word. We shouldn’t drag the word “love” into the mud like we we. Most of it couldn’t even be classified as “selfish love” but really just as “selfishness.”
Agape love is hard for us to live out. It’s not always the first thing I want to choose. But if we as Christians don’t show true love to the people hurting around us – who will? Trust me, someone will pop up and gladly teach them the way of the world. Let’s stand firm, and at all costs, teach them the way of the Word.