Episode 1. Love is a Radical Thing
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Love means different things to different people – mostly we think of it as that feeling of affection that we have towards someone. But that definition is a mile wide, but only an inch deep. One …
Love means different things to different people – mostly we think of it as a feeling of affection that we may have towards someone. But that definition is a mile wide, and yet only an inch deep. One thing that love is – perhaps the most important thing – is radical sacrifice. Hmm. We don’t like to talk about THAT too much!
The famous movie star Marilyn Monroe once said this, she said:
I’m selfish, impatient and just a little insecure. I make mistakes, I’m out of control and at times I’m hard to handle but if you can’t handle me at my worst then you certainly don’t deserve me at my best.
That’s a cheery thought isn’t it? But it makes an important point. See, people who are perfect are easy to love aren’t they? They never make mistakes, they never fall short of our expectations, they never disappoint us, they never hurt us, they never ignore us. See those people are so easy to love but have you ever found one, a perfect person that is? No me neither.
Of course we know that there aren’t any perfect people walking on this planet. We know that in our heads but that doesn’t stop us from expecting perfection when we go looking for love and I’m not just talking about boy/girl husband/wife type of love. Friendship is a form of love, being a parent involves loving, in fact in a sense we can interact with work colleagues, associates, acquaintances either in love or not, with compassion or not, with kindness or not.
You understand what I’m saying right? Now my dictionary tells me that love is a strong feeling of affection and even attraction. Of course that can be true, well it’s true at least in part at least some of the time but that dictionary definition falls such a long way short of what love really is. That romantic sort of love is easy to have when the person we’re loving is perfect, and okay some people some of the time can behave perfectly in very short bursts. But anybody who has ever been married will tell you that their lifelong soul mate is far from perfect lots of the time.
Anybody who has ever been a parent will tell you that their children are far from perfect. So what is love? What’s the definition of love when people and situations and circumstances and relationships are imperfect which let’s face it they are most of the time? What does love mean then huh?
Jesus once said:
No greater love has any man than to lay down his life for his friends.
If we stop and think about it it’s absolutely true because in an imperfect world loving imperfect people love is about sacrifice. In fact I’d like to propose an entirely different definition of love to my dictionary. Love is the decision we make to unconditionally care for, support and honour someone on their good days and on their bad days and the fruit of that love is that it develops a relationship that becomes rich and satisfying.
In other words the feelings follow along behind the decision to radically sacrifice ourselves to another person, to put up with their failures, to help them when they’re acting badly rather than criticise them, to give them the space to make mistakes and still be there for them when they come to their senses.
Mother Theresa once said:
If you judge people you don’t have time to love them.
Love is not judging people; love is not punishing people; love is not punching them back in the face when they punch you in the face. And in my experience, I’m sure in yours too, that sort of love hurts, not all the time but at least some of the time. Love is a radical sacrifice that hurts and when we choose to live out that radical sacrifice, relationships develop that last a life time.
How’s that for a definition of love? Radical, sacrificial, unconditional love. What would our world look like if everybody adopted that definition of love and lived that definition of love instead of that trite, superficial, inch deep, dictionary definition ‘a strong feeling of affection’ which always falls short of the reality, which always is going to disappoint us.
Affection is the reward of love; the feeling is the result of love. Love as you may have heard me say before, isn’t just a noun, it’s not simply something that we have or we don’t have, it’s also a verb, it’s a doing word. Love is something we are meant to do and the doing part of love, the doing part is sacrifice.
The more we sacrifice the more we experience the feeling of love. Think about it, think about how much a parent will sacrifice for a child, the sleepless nights, the worries, the conflict, the tears, the arguments, the money. By the time a child becomes a young adult a mother’s and father’s investment is huge, it’s massive.
Why do we as parents learn to love our children more and more as time goes on? Why are we so proud when they graduate high school or when they become effective young adults or when they achieve this or that? Why do we love them so much in our hearts? I’ll tell you why. Not only because they’re our own flesh and blood but because we’ve invested so much in them, and those achievements are the fruits of our investment. That’s why if feels so good to be a parent even when along the way it costs us so much.
It’s a beautiful picture of what love is really meant to be. We each would like to think that we would leave behind a legacy of love that when we’re gone our children, our grandchildren, our friends, our wider family, all the people we’ve come into contact with will be better off for having known us.
It’s pretty natural to want that but let me tell you, there can be no lasting legacy of love that our lives leave behind unless we’re living out the right definition of love. And that definition is that love is a decision to make a radical sacrifice for other people and radical sacrifices always, always costs us something.
True greatness isn’t about what we achieve; true greatness is about what we leave behind in the hearts of those whom we’ve served. Again that’s exactly what Jesus said in Matthew chapter 23, verse 11, He said:
The greatest among you will be the servant of all.
Can I ask you this? What definition of love are you living out? That shallow dictionary definition, or the real definition, the true definition of radical sacrifice. And what would your world look like, your relationships, your life if the love you lived involved radical sacrifice?
Questions like that really make you think. The most beautiful, the most sublime definition of love that I’ve ever read comes of course from the Bible in 1 Corinthians chapter 13. I’ve often heard it read and spoken out at weddings in a lovey-dovey, fluffy kind of a way. Have a listen to this, tell me whether you think that it’s lovey-dovey and fluffy and soft, 1 Corinthians chapter 13 beginning at verse 4:
Love is patient and love is kind. Love isn’t envious or boastful or arrogant or rude, it doesn’t insist on its own way, it’s not irritable or resentful, it doesn’t rejoice in wrong doing but love rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, it believes all things, it hopes all things and it endures all things. Love never ends.
It seems to me that every part of that definition or description is an explanation of the sacrifice involved in loving. Patience, that’s a sacrifice. Kindness, that’s a sacrifice. Not being envious, boastful, arrogant or rude, not insisting on our own way, not being irritable or resentful, bearing all things, enduring all things, hey they’re all about sacrifice and this was a sacrifice that never ends.
There’s nothing lovey-dovey or fluffy about any of that. It’s all about sacrifice. The sort of love that God is calling you and me to, is the sort of love that involves sacrifice, radical sacrifice. The sort that the Apostle Paul writes about in Romans chapter 5, verse 8:
God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
My friend, anyone who wants to live a life that leaves behind a lasting legacy of love, they need to be living that sort of a life, that sort of a love. It’s as simple as that.