“Love” is a notoriously difficult emotion to define.
The word sounds so simple, yet defies a simple definition.
We throw it around like a Frisbee.
“I love you.” “I love my kids.” “I love my spouse.” “I love a good Cab Sauv.” “I love Sunday football.”
You know what I really love? Vanilla ice cream with crunched-up Reese’s Cups in it!
When trying to define love, the problem we run into is this: the love I have for my kids, the love I have for my wife and the love I have for vanilla ice cream with crunched-up Reese’s Cups aren’t the same kind of love.
That reality about “love” might explain the email I received about a recent blog post I wrote that went a little viral: The One Thing That Can Save the Church (and the One Thing That Is Stopping That One Thing).
The email simply asked, “What is your definition of ‘love’?”
Well, as I just pointed out, “love” is a notoriously difficult thing to define.
Plus, we mean all kinds of different things when we use the word “love”.
My response to the email was to point out the difficulty in defining the word “love” and then I proceeded to define the word “love.”
Here’s the key part of my response to that email: “…I can give a feeble, overly-simplified (as is my tendency) definition of the agape-love I talk about in my article. Something like, ‘a selfless, unconditional caring for others’ seems sort of like what my understanding is. In this case, I also happen to think that love is rooted in who God is and, to borrow from the Hindu tradition, I believe it is connected to recognizing the divine in others.”
The thing is, after a few days of thinking about it – I realized that I was wrong.
“Incomplete” may be a better description.
I should have said, “love is selfless, unconditional caring for others – in this life.”
You see, there are people who express “love” for others by beating them with a Bible – judging their behavior, condemning them, attempting to control their every action.
To me, that doesn’t look very much like love.
To them, it does seem like loving behavior because they believe they are saving the other person from eternal damnation.
I have a problem with this persecutive and it has little to do with the fact that I don’t believe in a traditional Hell.
The folks who are trying to “love” the Hell out of other people identify themselves as Christians – as people who follow the teachings of Christ.
And therein lies my problem.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus was primarily concerned with how people were treated in the here and now. As it turns out, he didn’t do a lot of “loving the Hell out of people.”
He just loved the hell out of people.
The fact is, if we Christians could just focus on loving the hell out of people in this life, in the here and now, and let God worry about the next life – the world we live in would seem a lot less like Hell to most people than it does right now.
Love may be a notoriously difficult thing to define, but most folks sure do know it when they see it.
Let’s just love the hell out of them.