It’s the three word phrase that melts my heart every time. From my two year old daughter there are no more magical words than ‘I wuv you’. And I love that she feels free enough to use those words extravagantly. She tells me, her mother, her brother, the cat, the dog, her stuffed animals, etc. (If I go too much further it won’t feel special to me any more). But every time someone in my family tells me that they love me, regardless of the repetition, it warms something inside me and affirms what I know to be true. Some may even say we throw the word love around too much, but is there such a thing as too much?
I think about it like this. The apostle Paul, one for whom much of our church thinking and practice comes from, thought love so important that he wrote an entire poetic section about it in his letter to the church in Corinth. It begins like this, “If I speak in the tonguesof men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. Without love, all of our accomplishments, credentials, abilities, even faith itself means nothing. Nothing? To take a note from a page from Southern expressions, “them’s fighting words.”
But look at where the church is today. We have become a roadside attraction. We have lost our voice in society and often times we are neglected for being ineffective and archaic. What happened?* I think we may have lost our voice because we failed to speak and act from a place of love. Having grown up in the evangelical church in America I have been privy to our attempts to control society in stead of transform it. I have seen us hand out judgment rather than share God’s grace. And yes, we are called to live separate lives, but we are also called to lead lives of love. To use Paul’s words a bit more it looks a little like this, “Love is patient, Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
So yeah maybe my daughter does throw around the word “wuv” a little much…but maybe we all could be so lucky as to be accused of the same thing. Maybe then we might be the trans-formative Kingdom of God made into the image of a God who LOVED the world so much He was willing to die for it.
* This is a ridiculous rhetorical question if you try to take into account some of the missteps in the church’s 2,000 year history. Thankfully we are the Bride of Christ and He can redeem anything.