Saturday, September 22, 2007

What is Love?

What is Love?

In the bible, the love of God is called "agape" in the Greek. However, agape is not just any love but the sacrificial love commended to Christians and defined by God Himself. The truth is that all people, Christian and otherwise have a need for this kind of love which only comes from God and is only ministered by His Spirit.
Love is a nebulous thing, much spoken of and generally misunderstood. There are many things which can describe Love: patient, kind, healing, powerful, difficult, mysterious; yet there is only One who is love.
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love." 1 John 4:7-8

Christians and Love

As followers of Christ, Christians take upon the namesake of One who was born, lived, died, and was resurrected in pure love for all of mankind. Just as a "Dr." or "PhD" implies authority in a given field, "Christian" implies authority in the realm of this self-sacrificing love. We have a responsibility as "image-bearers" of Christ to administer His love and grace to the world. As many know, especially those who do not consider themselves Christians, this is generally not the case. Unfortunately, being a Christian general has more to do with how you vote, or which emails you forward rather than how you live your life. Christ's simple calling to love one another has been polluted by selfish ambitions, convoluted by religion, and cheapened by hypocrisy. We have robbed ourselves of the "simplicity which is in Christ Jesus," 2 Cor 11:3.
Frightened and confused by a swiftly changing culture, we Christians have withdrawn deep within the walls of our church and huddled under the blankets of traditions. We are reactionaries, ruled by fear and extremism. We have looked to men to guide us rather than to God. We have defined ourselves by our practices, principles, and traditions rather than by Christ. We have become so preoccupied with our survival as Christians that we have forgotten the purpose of our existence.
Along with his sacrificial death, Jesus lived a model life. But, though we take His name, we have not healed the sick, fed the hungry, comforted the grieving, and preached grace to the condemned. Rather, we have injured and maimed those we have been called to love and comfort all for the sake of perpetuating some kind of status quo. We have become contented armchair nominal followers of Christ. And, God help me, I've been at the front of the pack.

So what, then?

Two years ago, the Lord planted a seed of unrest in my heart. Though I would have been (and was for a time) content to point my finger at "the church" while entertaining lofty philosophies in my heart, God has had a different plan. One that is much more practical and not nearly as grand. He is not content with my ruminations, He wants everything from career and my leisure, to my eating habits. Being the social creature that I am, I have documented this path for you. What began as a disorganized smattering of thought at: has evolved into...a slightly more organized and much more comprehensive study on what I like to call the "manifestation of God's love," in my life. Essentially, my life on your screen.
So here I have landed, trying to figure out exactly what the Lord has for me. It is a very noble idea, trying to learn how to love people and sharing my path with others, but it is incredibly vague and impractical. I have spent countless hours trying to discover who I am in Christ and how He wants to use this pile of ashes to make something beautiful. It is slow, at times arduous, often ridiculous, and always surprising. But if at the end of this very long day, I have shown the world even a brief glimpse of God's love, then it is easily worth it.

Why "Welcome to Love?"

"Welcome to Love," or "Welcome to Agape" as it was known when I discovered that welcometolove was already in use on Blogger, was the product of a conversation with my pastor on the hippie love movement in the sixties. In 1967, there was a culmination of this movement in California called the "Summer of Love." This was a time for these love-seeking nomads to rest a while in the cultural indulgences of the time hoping to experience some shade of nirvana and find truth in what was and is, admittedly a world full of pretensions. This was exceptionally sad to me, that these hippies were so starved of love that they sought it through sex and chemicals.
The idea struck me that though we do not see such a unified movement of love-seekers as we did in the hippies, we are still searching for love. As I said before, it is difficult to define love, we think it may be a feeling or an idea but really, love is a place. Love is in the Kingdom of God; love is in Jesus Christ. I thought there would be nothing more powerful, nothing more moving than to be one of those who opens the gates to Love and welcomes the wanderers in. I got this marvelous image of my very favorite Wal-Mart employee who welcomes its patrons with his muddled, booming voice and perpetual smile.
"Hello, my name is Sarah Elizabeth. Welcome to Love!"

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