(Jesus said) “This is my commandment. Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15.12-13)
(The Apostle Paul wrote) There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit…To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good…Strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way…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 Corinthians 12.4, 7, 31, 13.4-7)
Daily, I strive to practice, to live Jesus’ commandment.
I understand his commandment (notwithstanding the word “commandment”) not as a demand, but rather as a statement of God’s will. To love as Jesus (God) loves is the way God is and the way God has created life to be.
I interpret Jesus’ commandment, that is, what it looks like when I am doing it, through the lens of the Apostle Paul’s definition and description of love.
I also view, indeed, see Jesus’ commandment in the light of the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10.25–37) in which Jesus teaches me that all people are my neighbors and that I am to be a neighbor to, for, and with all people.
Through this lens and in this light, love, for me, is a Holy Spirit-given gift. As gift, love is an unearned, undeserved, unmerited power or ability (in Paul’s language) for me to be patient, kind, and not to be envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, insisting on my way, being irritable or resentful, never delighting in wrong, always in truth, and bearing, believing, hoping, enduring all things, up to and including (in Jesus’ stark terms) death for the sake of my friends.
O’er the years and in my daily practicing, living the love of Jesus,(1) I, for myself, have learned what love ain’t.
If, when I love you whilst seeking something from you (whether your immediately proclaimed, “Thank you, Paul”, or your later return of favor to me), it ain’t love.
If, when I love you whilst regarding whether you deserve or merit it or whether you have earned it by how well you have treated me or how highly you have esteemed me, it ain’t love.
If, when I love you by seeking to calculate and give unto you in equal measure whatever kindness you have given unto me, it ain’t love.
If, when I love you and declare to others what I have done for you, it ain’t love.
If, when I love you and whatever I have done, I have done(3) less for you (that is, for your benefit) and more for how it fulfills my self-satisfaction or how it elevates my self-esteem, it ain’t love.
If, when I love you and whatever I have done, I have done to you (that is, I perceive you not as a person whom I regard, but rather as the object of my action, so, for example, to demonstrate my caring qualities or, worse, I am the actor and you are my audience, who, at the end of my action, you are expected to applaud in praise of me), it ain’t love.
If, when I love you and whatever I have done, I have not done with you (that is, in those circumstances when it applies, your permission), it ain’t love.
If, when I love you in the act of my forgiving you for any reason other than that you have trespassed against me and, thus, there is a trespass for me to forgive, it ain’t love.
If, when…ah, this is enough for now!
(1) Honesty compels the confession that I, from time to time (and more often than I care to admit, even unto myself), choose my always self-interested wants and needs, preferences and prejudices over God’s will, Jesus’ word, and the Holy Spirit’s way, and fail to love as Jesus loves. Thus, in giving examples from my experience of my un-love, the necessity of sincerity demands that I write not only “if”, but also “when”.
(2) In each of the examples, my failure to practice, to live the love of Jesus is rooted in the conditionality of my love; my adherence to my wants and needs, my preferences and prejudices limiting my love for you. Now, it is true (or so I believe) that we humans always, in some measure, no matter how slight, are conditional creatures. There is nothing we do or can do wholly devoid of the interests of the (our) self. That acknowledged, I also believe that Jesus, through the presence of the Holy (his) Spirit within us, can and, therefore, does call us to love as he loves.
Moreover, these examples of my un-love are but a small sample. For, akin to the great John Donne (1573-1631) when contemplating his sins, “I have more” (from A Hymn to God the Father, verse 1).
(3) “Done” includes, as the circumstance may entail, or said, or not done, and or not said.