I've noticed that a lot of times when talking with Christian folks about loving people, that they tend to either completely disregard the impact of loving someone, or else they immediately assume that you are one of those "just be a nice person and everything will be ok" people. How did our idea of love get so twisted? First of all, the importance of love is all over scripture - "But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love." Christ tells us the greatest two commandments - " `YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' "This is the great and foremost commandment. "The second is like it, `YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." Paul says in Galatians "For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."

Now, for all of you folks who have read that above paragraph and are now thinking "but you can't just sit around and love people" - you do realize that love is a verb, yes? It implies action, it implies commitment, it implies listening, it implies putting another person before yourself, it implies sharing your life, all of it, and it implies treating another life with all the respect and honor you would have your life given. It is anything but a passive "just sitting around and loving someone." I think often as christians we buy into the "love is only a feeling" idea more than most of the rest of the world. Secondly, since when did love cause your brain and mouth to stop working? Love is something that you can and should do along with EVERYTHING ELSE YOU DO. When you speak, when you act, when you are silent, when you are sad, when you are angry, when you disagree with someone, when you are frustrated, when you are thoughtful, when you are happy - in all of those things you can and should love the people around you.

Christ says several times in the Gospels to love your enemies. This does not mean to feel a nice warm feeling about them. This means to listen to them, to treat them with respect, to give without expectation of return. Because to be truthful, your enemies are not your enemies. Our war is not against flesh and blood. That means that Democrats are not your enemies. Homosexuals are not your enemies. Beggars are not your enemies. Murderers are not your enemies. Pedophiles are not your enemies. Treating them as such is blinding you and hurting them, so please don't do it.

Our views of love in the Christian church seem to me to be severely skewed. It seems that most of the rest of the world, including Christ, Paul, James, several writers in the old testament recognize the absolute necessity of love in everything we do - and yet us in the modern american christian church often look at it as a cop-out or an excuse to be apathetic about life.

Trust me, there is nothing easy about actively loving someone. In his book "The Prophet", Kahlil Gibran says:

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.

Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,

So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.

Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.

He threshes you to make you naked.

He sifts you to free you from your husks.

He grinds you to whiteness.

He kneads you until you are pliant;

And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God's sacred feast.

And this has been my experience as well. Love hurts. It is extremely difficult. It forces you out of comfort, out of yourself. It grinds you down and makes you pliant to be built up as who you were made to be - a sacrifice to God. And there is no more joyful and full life than one which gives itself away. This is Christ's example.

We are changed by giving of ourselves, and giving to others without expectation of return gives them the freedom to respond, to receive freely, and to give back freely, which in turn changes them. I think we SEVERELY underestimate the value of love in everything we do in life.

So, please - let's think carefully about what we believe about love.

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