CLEF Newsletter - February 2021

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love, preferring honor to each other; be diligent and fervent in serving the Lord; rejoice in hope, persevere in troubles while being devoted to prayer; contribute to the needs of each other and practice hospitality. Bless those who wrong you and do not curse them. Rejoice with those in joy, and weep with those in sorrow. Be like-minded, and associate with the lowly. Do not think too highly of yourself. Never pay back evil for evil. Respect what is right among men and strive for peace. Never take your own revenge, for vengeance belongs to the Lord. Rather if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty give him a drink… and so do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good… Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore fulfills the law.” (Romans 12:9-21; 13:10)

“True love is usually the most inconvenient kind.” - Kiera Cass
“True love is selfless. It is prepared to sacrifice.” - Sadhu Vaswani

“What the world needs now, is love, sweet love…” Such was the chorus line of the popular 60’s song, one that advised God about what we needed more than another mountain or wheat field. God has known this from the beginning and has ever since given us that love in Himself, along with the ways and means to produce more than enough of what there is “just too little of,” if we’ll do it. A glance through the passage above shows us that love starts with the giver of it and spreads from there. It is also conveyed by every means of grace, by our expression, voice, tone, attitude, action and written word, and impacts us systemically, even to the synapse of soul and spirit. And it is true love that inspires us, changes and transforms us, altering the very chemistry of our body and brain and compels us toward acts of sacrifice and service unflagging and resolute. The song above was written during the 60’s when the Viet Nam war, race riots, assassinations and political cover-ups were rife. The young hip culture sought love by tripping on drugs and sexual liberation which only destroyed minds and blighted relationships. But it was also a time when another cultural interchange transpired among mostly young people in their teens and twenties, called the “Jesus Movement.” A whole subculture of spiritual renewal and community arose, and its profile in music, Christian ethos and charismatic worship continue to this day. Many of its chief adherents were those coming out of a drug culture that had ravaged them and were recovering. Was God answering that song’s prayer?

Both “cultures” propounded love, but one destroyed its enthusiasts and the other transformed and restored them. So, what is the love that we really need and long for? True love is what we devote and impart toward others, meaning our only benefit is the knowledge and satisfaction that another person is adorned and beautified. The description given above out of the Bible is a perfect recipe for how one loves the people in one’s life. And certainly it is costly, inconvenient, humbling and sacrificial to engage. But we really do not notice the effort that goes into genuinely loving someone because of the joy of seeing them loved, enlarged, encouraged and enlivened. Love is a powerful force for change and impacts us so intensely because in its purest form it is entirely selfless, and rarely do we ever behold authentic acts by a human being that are genuinely selfless. It is a bit shocking.

One of my favorite lines from the film “The Princess Bride” is by the character Dred Pirate Roberts, aka Wesley, who declared to his doubting beau “Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.” There’s truth to that emotionally, but it also gives nod to the true immortality and transcendence of sincere, unaffected love. It is timeless, fearless, and eternal. You can never love anyone less than you do, and it never dies. It may suffer delay, but it can never be canceled, repudiated or reversed.

Yet more than all of this, true love is the archetype splendor of God’s image in and through us. When God’s Spirit joyfully animates us, we cannot help but pass it along to everyone we encounter. It is like Snoopy when he starts dancing on a spring day. The first person he meets is usually sour puss Lucy to whom he gives a big kiss on the lips, which mortifies her but enlivens him. Such is the joy of being fully known and loved by a God Who freely gives us a gift of grace that restores our hope and dignity and awakens the power and purpose of His eternity in our hearts. And such is the reason God created us to begin with… a love and desire to reflect His heart in the order of His creation, forevermore. Mankind’s fall from that divine and ideal order brought death and decay, disorder, despair, darkness and… delay. But it did not destroy God’s ultimate conception of what is true, good and beautiful, and He renews us by His grace and power to be reflections and rivers of that divine and unthwarted reality. God answered our need. Our brokenness did have a straining effect on “love, sweet love” but it did not stop it. It died, and was resurrected, and its Spirit flowed into all who would receive it. Nothing else is truer and more abundant than that. “True love isn’t just about what makes you feel good; it’s about what makes you feel real.”