Happy Sunday. For many in my adopted land, this is Super Bowl Sunday, a chance for modern day gladiators to beat the shit out of each other while we all munch on tortilla chips and vote on this year’s most enterprising adverts in that unofficial Oscars for best Commercial. Most Americans love this annual ritual just as they love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (yeugh!). But love….? We use the word ‘love’ in so many ways it is perhaps one of the most overused and misunderstood words in our language. After my forays into the subjects of shame and forgiveness, the love theme began to grow large in my thoughts. But as I mused it became clear I could not possibly write a few short paragraphs and then…done! Love is in the bag!
So, to be realistic, I will come back to this over and over, as I continue to grapple with what this simple four letter word might really mean. For now, I have determined to begin by doing a series on some of the things that have occurred to me in the realm of love. I don’t know how long I will stay with this, but we’ll start with part one and see how it goes. So let’s start with what I believe love isn’t. Love is not sex. There we go, I had to mention it. So its done now and we can move on! Seriously, though, it has occurred to me that we have so emphasized the role of sex in the arena of love that it now dominates our understanding and the whole construct. Any student of Freud would probably start there and barely leave the subject! We even use the phrase ‘making love’ as a euphemism and Hollywood films would have us believe the act of sex is the ultimate expression of love between a man and a woman or increasingly between those of the same sex. Indeed, this is probably at the root of such strong sentiments surrounding homophobia today.
Love isn’t romance either, even though, like sex, we might express our love towards certain people through these means. But then, what is ‘romantic’ to one person might just be a bunch of flowers to another. What I would like to do is provoke a discussion about what the word ‘love’ might really mean as it applies not to the Super Bowl or peanut butter sandwiches, but as the most important thing we can talk about when we talk about faith in God or on the level of how we relate with each other as human beings?’. I happen to believe that we were born, primarily, to love and to be loved and so a better understanding of what that means might just enhance the life we have been given. It is also important to properly frame this discussion by emphasizing this does not just mean the love between two people that might involve romance and sex, but the love of any human being for another and ultimately the love that is experienced in a more spiritual realm, wherever you put your faith. By this, I mean that which I happen to experience as a result of my relationship with God or that anyone might experience outside the realm of the natural.
For the follower of Jesus, he was attributed as saying two remarkable things about love, that I believe are central to this discussion. “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:36 – 40. “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:34.
I am going to end, having hardly started, by suggesting one major thought to ponder. Is it possible to love without first having been loved? For the purpose of this question, I am going to give us a working definition of love that is not the finished article, but will serve as a springboard for later discussion and development. ‘Love happens when our own needs and desires take second place to the needs and desires of one or more others and our lives reflect that inner reality.’ So have I experienced that kind of love expressed towards me? Have you? And is our ability to express that kind of love dependent on having experienced it ourselves? Next week I intend to get in to this subject in earnest and I think we will go back to the Genesis story again and see where it takes us.