I warrant that it is not unfair to assert that popular culture is trying to claim, nay purchase, the meaning of love. As if love could be equated to a monetary value. Yet if love is limited to a transitory emotion, or a seemingly casual—or deceptively meaningful—physical intercourse, perhaps it indeed can be bought and sold as loosely as a sexual fetish novel. Cheaply. With little or no integrity.
Well, that is life.
Or is it?
Absolutely not (I reply with unabashed certainty). Who do we think we are? There are far greater powers at work. The aforementioned ideas are merely us beginning to glance back at the hordes of decrepit evil materializing—less and less subtly, I might add—from the darkest shadows, lurking ever so near. Glancing back at elements—at enemies—that seek to destroy us, all the while we are apparently unaware of the fact that an immortal host of light is gathered right in front of us with a rider at the vanguard who is calling to us to step behind him to be healed of our wounds, to be restored to warm sunlight, and to be armed to turn around and join his ranks that are pressing the desperate voices of degradation back. The enemy is defeated. His forces are in their last gasping throes. The Great Campaign is concluding.
What is the Great Campaign?
Let us, in following Jesus, be prepared to announce as he did the message of comfort and discomfort, of welcome and warning. And let us, in our own day, so turn from our sins, individual and corporate, so worship the one in whose image we are made, and so follow the Image himself, that we as individuals and as a society may live out the prayer we pray, the prayer for hell to be vanquished, and for heaven and earth to become one.
(N.T. Wright, Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship, 1994)
To begin to hope to answer the question, “What is love?” I must first examine what this campaign is all about—was this season for the Christian Church means.
It begins with healing.
Healing necessitates openness, with confessing my limits: lusts, insecurities, uncertainties. For reflection on preparing one's heart for the culmination of Lent today, this Good Friday, and Jesus Christ's resurrection celebrated on Easter this weekend, I recommend reading Glenn Packiam's recent post, "Why Do We Confess?"
This season of the holy liturgical calendar is not just about personal spiritual examination and transformation, however. God's passion is not just that I, His follower, receive His gracious healing and bask in perpetual stillness and solitude. These are immensely important—foundational even—but it is also so very much about letting that divine power transcend my life, letting the Holy Spirit pour out its abundant love from my heart onto the lives of others.
It progresses with proclamation.
I am Christ's ambassador, a herald of the Kingdom of Heaven. I have a purpose, a mission. I, along with all who are Believers, have acknowledged and received unfailing love. Unfailing love. Faithful. Enduring. Limitless. Selfless. Passionate. Desirous. Love. I am not meant to hide that within myself, to bury it away with the notion that it can be preserved as my own precious possession—as though it will be safe if unexposed to the harsh unwieldy elements of life. Love must be shared. It must be invested in more love, in the beautiful lives of those I am blessed to encounter—friends and enemies. It must be proclaimed through word and deed.
My courageous friend, Ben Morrell, is at a crossroad in his second battle against cancer (note: "Never Know Who's Watching You"). Despite the desperate limits of science and the haunting unknown of each day, Ben is witnessing the stirring power of Jesus' love emanating from his life, touching the souls of his proximity in profound ways.
This is what Jesus' life, death, and resurrection are about. This is the call of YHWH, the banner of His Kingdom's advancement. That the world will know the restorative welcome and tender comfort of the God of the universe, the “I AM” who cares for us so deeply that He reached out as a literal human presence to our frailty, to help us rise from the dust of our inadequacy and to stand firm against fallen-ness; Jesus denounced our frailty by gathering ultimate suffering onto himself—humanness, death—and by offering us true love instead: beauty, life.
It is time to reclaim the definition of love.
That the Creator of all things loves me in such a personal way is immensely sobering to me. But more so, it is empowering. It is life giving. It is utterly attractive.
Every day is a battle. Here is where I often begin—where I must begin each day:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore . . . praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.
(The Apostle Paul of Tarsus, from his Letter to the Church in Ephesus, 6:10-18)
May your kingdom come, Lord. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Soli deo gloria.