Wilson Pickett, The Rolling Stones and The Blues Brothers echoed Solomon Burke’s assertion, “Everybody needs somebody to love”. If there’s one word in the English language that’s over-used, perhaps it is “love”. We love pizza, football and nachos. We love lazy summer evenings and the frost that decorates the glass on a cold winter’s morning. We love our shiny gadgets and the latest fashions. We love our friends. We love to be loved.
What is this thing we called love?!
The Apostle Paul described love like this:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
There is a desire in the human psyche both to be fully known and to be fully loved. But how could anyone truly love us if they knew the detail of our flaws; our imperfect character, obnoxious thoughts and failure to act honourably?
As much as I try to be more loving and more lovable, I fail more times than I care to admit to myself. In a bid to be a better lover I can try all kinds of strategies to align my behaviour with what a “loving” person would do. Perhaps by acting right I will become what I long to be. But I fail. Again.
The 20th Century Theologian A. W. Tozer wrote the following:
“Powerless religion may put a man through many surface changes and leave him exactly what he was before. The changes are in the form only, they are not in kind. Behind the activities of the non-religious man and the man who has received the gospel without power lie the same motives. An unblessed ego lies at the bottom of both lives, the difference being the religious man has learned better to disguise his vice.”
Like the powerless religion that Tozer wrote of, the religion of self-improvement can tease us with grand promises yet leave us unchanged and unfulfilled. Even the Apostle Paul spoke of his wrestle with self like this, “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”
The Bible teaches that God is love. It goes as far as saying that marriage is an illustration of the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Christian church, that is, those who seek to know and love Christ. If that is the case then to truly love we must first submit ourselves to the love of God. In doing so our heart will be changed and our capacity to love increased.
However, being a Christ-follower does not automatically make us good at anything; be it forgiveness, flower-arranging or football. It doesn’t make us a good friend and it doesn’t make us a good lover. These are skills we must learn.
Too many people make little progress in life; they travel around in circles, covering the same ground time and time again, hoping that one day, “everything will work itself out.” I don’t want to be in that crowd. Do you?
We have opportunities to learn each day. Every awkward situation can be a lesson that helps us grow in perseverance, in character and in hope. Our attitude towards these situations shapes our today and our tomorrow.
I’m not perfect yet; I still have much to learn. But I am learning, and that sets me on course to become a better friend, a better father and a better lover. How about you?