So What's Love?

She was one of those people who came up to you and just started talking about things you don’t usually tell strangers. In the first moments of our short conversation I learned she was divorced and I learned why. Her now ex-husband chose to walk a different path. She told me he was an excellent father and a great person and she decided to support him in his new direction. What she said next made me realize she’d figured out I was a preacher. The only hint I’d given about my identity was her hearing me say I wanted to get a new shirt and tie for Easter. After explaining she was helping her ex-husband on his new life she said, “THAT’s what Christianity is about. Jesus was all about love. If you go to church and listen to MAN (she said this word as if it had a terrible flavor) you WILL get messed up. You just have to love people.” And then she walked away.

I wanted to say, “Okay, I agree. Christianity is about love. But what’s love to you?” At this point all I could see was her back as she was marching away. I’m guessing her response would have been something about supporting people in their decisions, being helpful to people no matter what. If that was her thinking, I can agree, to a point. Love is about support. But sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s about rescue.

What if her husband had something called Body Integrity Identity Disorder? It’s a rare but relevant recognized mental illness. Go ahead and look it up. Or what if her daughter was dying due to anorexia? Would it be loving to support a daughters decision not to eat? Very often, love isn’t about agreeing or standing along side someone. It’s about rescuing. And that’s the kind of love Christianity is about.

Jesus was on a rescue mission. A mental and spiritual disturbance we have named Sin was twisting and warping humankind into false thinking and false identities. We needed to be loved back into reality. So Jesus took on humanity. His humanity went far beyond skin. He took on human nature too, but with this difference. His human nature was a real human nature not a sin distorted one. He was genuinely a human being. Thus he lived. Thus he died. For us. Those words, “for us,” means he was doing something that needed to be done by us but since we were incapable of doing it, he did in our place. We needed to take on this malignant force. We couldn’t. Jesus could. Jesus did.

On the cross he defeated Sin and it’s evil companion, Death. The victory was won there. The resurrection was the proof of the victory. The world has not been the same since. This is what Christianity is about and this is what love is. God demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He did more than support us. He rescued us. Then he sent us to be rescuers too, to “snatch [people] from the fire and save them” (Jude 23). That means one of the things we must do is tell the truth. In love, of course.