Summary: God's definition of love is also counter-cultural.
Love Myths: How then should we love?
January 10th, 2010
Let’s begin by working together on some verbal pictures of love. I’m inviting you to describe the image or images that pop into your head that picture what you think of when you hear the word “love” – I’ll get you started with an example or two (the easy, obvious ones…), and then leave the rest (the hard ones…) to you:
• a mother holding her new-born baby
• a couple at the altar exchanging their marriage vows
Those descriptions lead us into the topic I want to spend the next 5 weeks or so diving into together, as they lead us towards the season of Lent which this year begins right after Valentines day. That topic is this: how should we love?
Last week I shared two foundational truths that I need reminding of from time to time – that I am loved and that love is powerful. I’ve been reflecting more on this theme of love, and of our confusion as a culture around what love really is, and so since our Lord Jesus summed up all the law and the prophets in terms of love, in that very familiar Scripture, “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” 37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matt 22:36-40); and since our goal as a community is to “love first”, I thought it worth a deeper exploration. How should we love? How do we actually live a love for God and a love for others?
We shared some of our pictures about love, I wonder what messages our culture send us about love? It is an important question, because most of us are more immersed in our culture than we realize, and more immersed in our culture than in the culture of the Kingdom of God (and please note, I use that phrase “Kingdom of God” deliberately rather than “church culture”). As Christians today, we need to develop the skill of seeing and reading and understanding our culture, in comparison and contrast to the Kingdom of God, so that we can see the subtle yet powerful ways we have been shaped by the world around us instead of by the Holy Spirit. This is in obedience to Romans 12:2, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you” (NLT), or as one paraphrase I like puts it, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-make you”.
Now reading our culture’s messages on what love is could easily be a lifetime of full-time study and research, so indulge me in a highly selective exercise. I chose one powerful cultural medium: music. And I did a little digging – listened to some “top ten” songs, watched some videos, went back in history and chose some “famous” songs about love, read through the Grammy Nominee list. I wanted to pull some of those in this morning and do the exercise together, but there simply isn’t time in a sermon to do that kind of examination together, so you’ll have to rely on my summary and then do your own cultural analysis. The biggest message I took from my little exercise was this: “love” is a powerful feeling. That comes through the music, which grabs us emotionally and makes us feel – creates this connection with us, and opens us that emotion part of us so that we accept the message, we are open and so believe the song because of how it makes us feel. That message (love is a powerful feeling) comes through the lyrics also: “'Cause I can feel you breathe/It's washing over me/Suddenly I'm melting into you/There's nothing left to prove/Baby all we need is just to be/Caught up in the touch/The slow and steady rush/Baby, isn't that the way that love's supposed to be”; or “I want to know what love is/I want you to show me/I want to feel what love is/I know you can show me”; or “Your lights are on, but you're not home/Your mind is not your own/Your heart sweats, your body shakes/Another kiss is what it takes/You can't sleep, you can't eat/There's no doubt, you're in deep/Your throat is tight, you can't breathe/Another kiss is all you need… You know you're gonna have to face it, you're addicted to love”; or “Some say love, it is a river/That drowns the tender reed./Some say love, it is a razor/That leaves your soul to bleed./Some say love, it is a hunger,/An endless aching need./I say love, it is a flower,/And you it's only seed.”; or “You make me feel the way a woman/Is supposed to feel/So let me show you, show you/My love's for real/I'll be the rain in your summer/The chill in your fall/I'll be what you want/Anything at all/I've got a love for all seasons/A love for all time/I'll be the fire in your winter/The sun in your spring/I'll do what you want/Give you ev'rything/I've got a love for all seasons/A love for all time”; or “Cause when you're fifteen and somebody tells you they love you you're gonna believe them when you're fifteen and your first kiss makes your head spin 'round but in your life you'll do things greater than dating a boy on the football team...but I didn't know that at fifteen.” I could go on, and there is certainly more than just the one message about love as a powerful feeling, but that is I think the main message.