Home > Opinion > Love is a many-splendoured thing

Love is a many-splendoured thing

FOR MANY people, love is a crazy mixture of emotions: joy, pain, guilt and deep satisfaction. However it is often reduced to a shallow sentimentality that does little for anyone. This issue of Journey invites us to consider love in many ways.

Of course Christians believe that one of the greatest descriptions of love is in Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians.

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Cor 13:4-7)

Jesus offered two clear commands about love to his followers: “Love one another as I have loved you” and “Love your enemies”.

Since it is not possible to command another’s emotions, it is clear that like Paul, Jesus was also speaking about attitudes and actions.

The problem is that there are no Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to help us measure the level of our commitment to love.

How can I be sure that I am acting with love rather than self-interest or worse still, manipulation? Let me give you a couple of examples.

My wife and I have very different attitudes to expressions of love. I find it easy to tell Heather that I love her and to do so regularly.

Heather however considers such repeated assurances of love as unnecessary.

Her response is, “I told you when I married you that I loved you. Don’t you believe me?”

Do my repeated verbal affirmations mean I love more than my wife? Of course not, just saying I love doesn’t prove that I do.

Once I said to Heather, “If you love me, you’ll clear all that stuff out of the car”. Her response was, “You’re wrong because I do and I won’t”.

It took me somewhat longer to realise that what she said was very true.

She did love me, but that didn’t mean that she would necessarily do what I wanted her to do. So we can’t measure a person’s love on the basis of their willingness to comply with our wishes.

My statement was an attempt to manipulate, but Heather would not let me do that.

Having discussed the concept with several other people I do not believe that we can create KPIs for evaluating love.

Love comes from a deep personal commitment and can only be measured by those who receive or experience our attitudes and actions.

One thing Heather and I have agreed together is that we would believe the other loved us no matter what we said or did. If we hurt one another, this does not alter the conviction that we are loved. We may have an issue to deal with, but that does not diminish our commitment to love each other.

Love is deeper than emotion; it is a decision to act in ways that bring the best for another person.

Even if we fail to act lovingly at times, our love may still be real and strong.

If we choose to love in all situations we will have to make some tough decisions. We have to choose to love when we feel hurt or betrayed. We have to learn to love when we get no thanks or loving response in return. We have to learn to love those with whom we passionately disagree.

As followers of Christ we must learn to love deeply, unconditionally, faithfully and honestly. We can’t do it alone, but are offered the gift and power of the Holy Spirit to make it possible.

God is love and those who live in love live in God, says the first letter of John.

As we experience the forgiving unconditional love of God within our own lives, we will find the power and confidence to love.