Discovering True Love
"Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Love. Across the wide and diverse spectrum of cultural practices, artistic expressions, and personal opinions, there is, at least, universal agreement about the centrality of love. Not just the desire but the need to love and to be loved. Again and again, in song and on the screen, the message is made clear that love is what the world needs now, that love is all you need.
And yet, love—true lasting love—remains elusive. We all look for love. Sometimes we may believe we’ve found love. But just as quickly as we fall in love, we fall out of it. More than a feeling, love continues to escape our grasp. It is beyond our control.
Love, we learn, is a choice. A decision. A commitment that bears a great risk. To choose to love is to open oneself up to the possibility of disappointment. In our pursuit of love, we make ourselves vulnerable to the pain of rejection—perhaps even the sting of betrayal. For the brokenhearted, it is easier to perceive what love is not rather than what love actually is.
Repeatedly jilted, we can become jaded. The temptation arises for us to stop searching and instead settle for whatever intimacy, whatever affection, we can earn or perhaps even buy. But deep down, we know that when affection becomes transactional, love is not true; it is false.
Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians—a letter he wrote to a community in crisis—that true lasting love is kindled not by our driving to possess the affection we crave at the expense of others. True lasting love is actualized through our willingness to be unconditionally devoted to the well-being of another person. Practicing patience and kindness rather than indulging envy and pride. Being slow to anger and willing to forgive, even when we are right, rather than holding onto a record of wrongs. Love is expressed in the celebration and protection of human dignity.
Paul’s litany invokes a higher love—one that is well beyond our reach. True lasting love cannot be extended toward others if we are still striving after it ourselves. Love like this must be first given to humanity in order for us to share with each other.
And so love comes down. The love of God, the love that is God, becomes one of us in Jesus Christ. And we look, and we learn, and we follow Jesus as he loves. Jesus’ love is expressed through words of advocacy and the healing embrace of “the other”—those rejected and marginalized by society. It is love embodied in the willingness to serve those in need even to the point of personal sacrifice. Love that is offered without conditions and yet always with forgiveness when it is rejected or betrayed. Love that, in its willingness to die so that we can live, proves stronger than death. Observing the life and death of Jesus we discover not only how to love fully but how fully we are loved.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16). This is the love that changes everything. That affords us a vision that is deeper and wider than the limits of our experience or imagination. That offers us the strength to rise beyond the wounds of our past and the challenges of the present moment. This is the love we all need. Love that perceives beauty rather than fear in diversity; that recognizes unity instead of division in our desire to be healed and made whole. This is the love we have been given. This is the love we are called to share.
Words: Chris Tweitmann
Photography: Annie Spratt, AJ Garcia