Flip on the radio. Surf the stations. What are you likely to hear? Love songs. Songs of new love, romantic love, puppy love, spurned love.
At some wedding receptions, anyone who wants the bride and groom to kiss has to sing a song with the word “love” in it. Almost always someone sings: “I’d love to be an Oscar Mayer wiener…”
Sit in a high school literature class and it doesn’t take long to figure out that a whole lot of sonnets, plays and novels have been written about love. TV and movies? Let’s not even go there. That word “love” sure gets a work-out.
The Bible talks about love too. Most people describe Christianity as a religion of love. But it is no limp-wristed love. The language of the New Testament has a variety of words for what we call “love.” The highest form of love about which Jesus and His apostles spoke is not about passion or personality. It is not about lusting or liking. It is not about sex or sentiment.
It is an undeserved love, freely given. It is not conditioned on the attitude of the person receiving it. It’s the word Jesus used when He said: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.” It is the word Paul uses: “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” It is the word John uses in his first epistle when he says: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins,” and again when he says: “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” It’s the word Paul uses in his famous “faith, hope and love” chapter in 1 Corinthians. It is the word Jesus uses in today’s text when He says, “Love your enemies!”
Only by looking at God’s love can we even begin to understand what Jesus means – and what He does not mean. One of Shakespeare’s “love” sonnets may not have been so far off after all – that real love does not “alter when it alteration finds.” Indeed, God’s love in Christ is “an ever-fixèd mark.”
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no, it is an ever-fixèd mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.