St. Nicholas Orthodox Church
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese
9100 Youree Drive, Shreveport, LA 71115
Christ Is In Our Midst: Weekly Reflections

Love – Not Just for Coffee Anymore

If ever there was a misused word, that word is “love.” In our society especially, there is a tendency to use the word in an incredibly broad, and sometimes quite flippant, way. Not only do we love God, our families, and our country, but we also love pizza, movies, a pair of shoes, a smart phone, a perfect cup of coffee. In Shreveport we have the clever advertising brand, Locals Love Us, which expertly plays on our overuse of “love”. Is it really possible to love a barber shop or grocery store? Part of the problem is that we only have one word for love; biblical Greek has a few different words expressing different kinds of love. Even in English, though, we’re really stretching it when we use the word “love” to describe how we feel about coffee. Believe me, I strongly like coffee. But do I love it? Not really.

The trouble with overusing “love” is that its meaning becomes diluted, and it no longer speaks to us as powerfully as it should. So we hear that God loves us. Does He love us like we love football? Or like a husband loves a wife? Well, how does a husband love a wife? Even there we encounter an astonishing range of ideas in the world around us. Is a wife something to be discarded like our outdated cell phone when something newer and shinier comes along? One would think so judging by much of popular culture. And just how long can we expect to “love” the shiny, new model? Probably as long as nothing else comes along and catches our eye.

Of course as Christians we all know that real love is something loyal and longsuffering. Perhaps, however, we sometimes forget just how extraordinary the standard of love is for us. Christ comes to die for us, and just before He is crucified He tells His disciples (and all of us) to love one another “as I have loved you.” (Jn. 13:34) In other words, real love is sacrificial, even unto death. It is not a feeling of euphoria, a kind of dizzy devotion to something momentary. Rather, it is a decision, made constantly and against all odds, to honor and serve someone else, no matter what. Most challenging of all, though, is what St. Paul adds at the end of his list of love’s characteristics: “love never fails.” (I Cor. 13:8)

Wow. Never? Then I haven’t even begun to love. Maybe it would be fair to say, though, that in any given situation, on any given day, with any given relationship, insofar as I am truly loving the other, love does not fail. Insofar as I am truly loving God this day, I am perfectly faithful to Him, even though altogether there may only be a few seconds out of this day that count for truly loving God. The same goes for my wife, children, and everyone else.

But in those few seconds, I experience paradise, if only fleetingly. In those few seconds, I experience freedom, peace and joy. In that split second when I want nothing more than to give my heart to another – right before I start daydreaming about pizza again – in that split second I know what love is, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with pleasing myself. In fact, in that split second, my wants and cravings, and any strings I might otherwise attach to acts of kindness, are totally gone. I want nothing but the good of the other, and am pleased for the other to increase while I decrease.

In His magnificent, perfect love for us, God desires that we be filled with His love; but that requires that our love be tested. If we are attentive, we’ll never have to look far for a testing opportunity. As St. Mark the Ascetic says, “To accept an affliction for God’s sake is a genuine act of holiness; for true love is tested by adversities.”

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