Subtitle: And, no, I don’t mean that Paul, but rather me.
“How can you say that?” A friend asked. “Especially in these tumultuous times! How can you say what you always say, ‘I love you, always and in all ways’?”
Thus, launched an hour-long conversation this morning.
I cannot recall when I first wrote or said to someone, “I love you, always and in all ways.” Though I am sure what I meant. Then. And what I mean now.
Here, I piggyback on the Apostle Paul. In his grand paean to love, 1 Corinthians 13 (If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal…), he describes love. What love looks like. What love does and doesn’t do.
However, Paul doesn’t define love. What it is. For that, I look to 1 Corinthians 12:
There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit and varieties of services, but the same Lord; and varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (verses 4-7).
Love is an ability, a power given by God through the Holy Spirit as gift, thus, never deserved or merited, to employ in manifold ways in the service of Jesus for the benefit of all; the fruit or good results of which are brought forth by God and God alone.
Love, as power, once granted, is rooted in the will, that human capacity to choose to do or not to do something. Therefore, love, in this sense, is not an emotion.
(Now, being an emotional person or, as Pontheolla says, “Living, breathing drama!,” I have nothing against – having and expressing – feelings. Even feelings of love. However, I think, the problem, aye, the curse of love that is only or largely feeling is that it, necessarily, comes and goes, rises and falls, waxes and wanes, flows and ebbs and, characteristically, in our human response to the externalities of our existence, whether our circumstances fare well or poorly, and to the internalities of our beingness, whether we, in body and mind, soul and spirit, are well or ill.)
By faith in God, trusting that the Holy Spirit has given me the power to love and, as I seek, in the words of the hymn, to see Jesus more clearly, love Jesus more dearly, and follow Jesus more nearly, I am able to be patient and kind, not envious, boastful, arrogant, or rude, not insistent on my own way, not irritable or resentful, never rejoicing in wrongdoing, always rejoicing in the truth, and bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring all things (1 Corinthians 13.4-7).
Therefore, if…when I choose to exercise this ability on your behalf, I can and do love you always, in each and every moment in time, and in all ways, whatever your and my state of being or circumstance.
Therefore, when you, for example, treat me kindly or poorly or live acquisitively or self-sacrificially or believe COVID-19 is a global pandemic or tantamount to a seasonal flu or are biblically and theologically doctrinaire or progressive or politically conservative or liberal or an unrepentant or barely recovering racist, socially asleep or “woke,” I can, I am able to love you.
Now, when you, to take one example, treat me poorly, I will not and never will like that you behave that way toward me, and, highly likely, I will not like you. Nevertheless, the power that I possess to love you, again, given by God through the Holy Spirit, to act benevolently toward you (which includes, at the least, not wishing or willing or acting to do you harm), is greater than you and me.
So, as you, made in God’s image, are God’s beloved, thus, my beloved, I love you…
Always and in all ways, and
To the moon and beyond (for anyone can go – and many have gone! – to the moon and back).
© 2020 PRA
Illustration: St. Paul Writing His Epistles (1620), Valentin de Boulogne (1594-1632)