Love is such an abused and misunderstood word. We throw it around in ways that do not honour its importance or significance. We take the most important word in our vocabulary and reduce it to an expression of our appreciation for things, like television shows and cell phones. Yet, what this word represents has the potential to change the world and set people's hearts on fire with real living.
We are not going to find the true power of this word inside of ourselves, as much as we long to see it there. The love that changes things must be planted and grown inside of us. Too often we act as if God wants to do a renovation in us whereas he desires to do a band new construction. The Word tells us we are a new creation, not a rehash of the old. It tells us that the old has gone and the new has come. It is in this new construction that our heart is changed with a new capacity as Jesus empowers us to love as he loved us.
Love exacts a great price from us. It kills our pride, our selfish ambition, our right to be defensive, our ability to be offended, our right to keep score. It provokes us into kindness and patience, into never giving up on anyone. It takes down all our defenses so that we remain vulnerable even though we have been harmed in the past. Love demands vulnerability and a willingness to be hurt again or it is not love at all. But love empowers us to rise above this hurt for the sake of the one we are loving because that is how God's love works.
This is why Paul was able to write to the Corinthians:
“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. (1 Corinthians 10:23)
Paul was most likely quoting a letter they had written to him or perhaps the latest philosophy being debated in Corinth. "Everything is permissible" is often what we hear from the grace abusers as well. "If God really loves me he will understand." That is a very self-serving statement that gives the person the right to do whatever he wants to do. But Paul says we need to better examine our thoughts and actions and measure them against a new measuring rod or a new standard. We need to ask ourselves if this thing is beneficial and constructive.
We could answer yes almost 100% of the time if we make ourselves the center of that question. Is this action beneficial to me? Yes. Is this action constructive to me? Yes. Out of this comes such great philosophies for living as, "Don't let anyone tell you what to do", "live your life as you want", "you have the right to feel that way because of your past". There is a tone in all of these philosophies that comes from the "you are the most important person to you" thinking. But as long as that is in place loving with the love of God is impossible. The truth is the question of "beneficial and constructive" is not focused on us. Paul explained:
Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. (1 Corinthians 10:24)
That then defines what the Word is saying when we read that not everything is beneficial and not everything is constructive. The focus is not on us but on others. Is the action I am taking self-seeking or is it beneficial to this other person? Are these words I am speaking focused on protecting me or are they constructive for this person? Are my actions and words building people up or is it tearing them down? Sometimes real love has a bit of both where you have to point out destructive behaviour in the ones you love in order to build them up, but it is never done in anger or hatred. Love always speaks with grace.
Now just imagine what your day would look like if you lived this love that Jesus has empowered you to live. Imagine in every situation where you set self aside and acted and spoke for the benefit of the other person. Imagine putting their interests before your own. Imagine if in a dispute you took the time to see it through the other person's eyes and realized that an apology is an easy thing for the benefit of the other person. We certainly would not need a campaign about random acts of kindness; it would be as natural as breathing.
These days as I interact with people I often find myself asking "how important is this person"? The response is usually that this person is the object of God's affection and deserving of love and respect. This then leads me to ask "how can I show love in this situation"? It is amazing how my self-interest dissipates and compassion takes over. I only wish this happened 100% of the time but I am still young, still learning to surrender my all to Jesus. However, I must say, the longer I stare into the love of Jesus the greater my desire to be the new creation he has declared me to be. We still have so much to learn.