Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

How To Learn about Love

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How the Church Teaches about the Love of God

In the Christian faith we talk about the love of God. But do we really understand it?

We go to great lengths to define it.
Sermons preached.
Pages of books filled.
Arguments debated.
Anecdotal stories told.

Even in our best attempts, we lack the words. We revert to using strange words that require defining themselves.
Justification.
Expiation.
Propitiation.
And other words I am grateful to have forgotten.

We describe what we believe is the appropriate response.
Obedience.
Faith.
Church attendance.
Not cussing.
For the mature, Radicalness.

We describe who we think are the recipients of it. And who isn’t.
Usually “we” are.
But there is always someone “out there” who isn’t.

We say that the love is for everyone. An open door.
Me.
You.
America.
The world.

And then we go to great lengths to exclude many.
Exclusion based not so much on our definitions, but rather, how we feel about them.

God’s Love.
We qualify it.
We quantify it.
We label it and put it in a box ready to ship.

But is any of this God’s love? Is this the way to understand it?

How to Learn about the Love of God

There is only one way I know of to understand the love of God. To try to love like him.

To give without expecting in return.
To live sacrificially.
To say no to me and yes to those in need.
To love so extravagantly that it appears wasteful.

Mother Teresa put it this way:

We should ask ourselves, “Have I really experienced the joy of loving?” True love is love that causes us pain, that hurts, and yet brings joy. This is why we must pray and ask for the courage to love.

When we love others, we begin to experience the love God has for us. Especially when we show a love for everyone. And when that love costs us something.

Yes, love for our spouses and children and families.
But also for our neighbor. Even the one we don’t like.
For our enemies.
For those who don’t agree with us.
For those who are different from us.
For those we don’t understand.
Even for those who hate us.
For the poor.
For those who can’t love us in return.
For the widow and the orphan.
For the weak and vulnerable.
For everyone. 

photo by Dhilung Kirat

Don’t misunderstand. Definitions can be useful. But what is better, what matters more, is doing.

Holding the hand of someone who is in great need, doing for them even though they can never repay, and loving them no matter how they choose to live their life will teach you more about the love of God than anything you will ever read.

To learn about love, it needs to stop being a concept and start being something we do. (Tweet that.)

I encourage you to try it out. Do something for someone out of love that costs you something. You’ll find you won’t need your definitions anymore.

Have you ever loved in such a way that it hurts?

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About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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5 Replies

  1. Mother Teresa’s quote just dropkicked me.

    (thank you)

  2. Jodi Schumm

    I loved Mother Teresa’s quote. It’s not always easy to find the joy in loving those who are hardest to love. Thanks for the reminder and the challenge!

  3. Love is a decision and an action. Many words have been spent in the definition of love, and all have fell short.

    In the post, you ask “Is this the way to understand God’s love?” Can it ever be understood? Can it only be experienced. Can we show the same capacity of love towards a stranger? These are all things I wrestle with.

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