This past weekend I was in the beautiful area of San Luis Obispo — particularly Avila Beach — for my cousin’s wedding (shoutout to #teamGrillo). I mean it was absolutely gorgeous, the venue was outside on a luscious golf course meadow adjacent to the beach, with a large pound created by the inflow of the sea water separating the two. Not to mention the sun-kissed weather in the afternoon and the light brisk breeze in the evening with a lovely high of 72℉. As my cousin walked down the aisle to meet the love of her life, it seemed as if time itself was in attendance, attentively watching the moment gracefully take the spotlight. The powerful moment I want to rest in for this Musing is the exchanging of the vows. The wedding vows are the most ancient when it comes to a traditional marriage ceremony. It is the public declaration that you are making the deepest, longest and most important covenant that can be made between a man and a woman.
Now before all the single people close this tab, let me say this is not a post about the one you may never find (nevertheless keep hope alive). This article is about the most fulfilling, satisficing, truthful, intimate, respectful, passionate, affectionate, secure, consistent and nurturing relationship one could even fathom of having. A relationship with Love Himself (1 Jhn 4:8) King David so excellently illustrates this in Psalm 63
“O God, You are my God; earnestly I seek You; my soul thirst for You; my flesh faints for You...because Your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise You.” -Ps. 63:1&3
When the two were exchanging their vows, the emotions were running high for all who were caught in the moment’s embrace. Love in the purest and most truthful form is so intangible for full human expression and comprehension that love causes a very heightened emotional response, thereby running the risk of egregiously diluting love down to a fickle feeling. Then on the flip side because we are a performance driven society, we also run the risk of mutilating love to be synonymous with an action. So this begs the question what exactly is love? Let’s look to scripture…
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” – 1 Cor 13:4-7
In reading Paul’s description of love, I leave with a stronger sense of what love cannot be. Without driving head first into the text, come up here with me to take a birds eye view. In these 4 verses, Paul describes love as “doing” or “not doing something” a total of 8 times and ascribes an emotion or an attitude to love a total of 8 times. This leads me to believe that love is not or does not equate to a verb or a feeling but yet a character. Given that Paul uses characteristics to describe love, it is fair to say that love is a character, “the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing.” (dictionary.com). Webster puts it like this “the main or essential nature especially as strongly marked and serving to distinguish”. It is by the love of God that we have been marked, identified and distinguished. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 Jhn 3:1) As seen in this scripture love does express or reveal through action. This is where the kind of trite saying “love is an action word” comes from. Buts lets not get it twisted, love yields an action, an action does not yield love. With this in mind let's read 1 Jhn 4:9
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” -1 Jhn 4:9
The key word and phrase in the text for the specific point that I am trying to get across is the word “manifest” and the phrase “in this”. The word “this” is referring to God sending His only son into the world. “In”, the Greek used here is a preposition denoting an implication — expressing something inexhaustible. And the word “manifest” means to display or prove beyond a shadow of doubt. So, the action of God sending His son is just proof beyond a shadow of doubt of God’s inexhaustible love! Or in other words, sending His only son carried weight of God’s love. “Manifest” denotes the illimitable quality of His love. While I agree that sending His only son is the greatest expression of His love, because His love is limitless the action is not the total sum of His love. This expression is 100% love but His love is not 100% action. In the same way when Jesus says “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” He is not saying that your love for Him is the keeping, it just the way our love for Him is manifested. Now please HEAR ME when I say this, Jesus did not say “if you keep my commandments, you love me”. Obedience can only follow out of love. You cannot “do” yourself into loving people, let alone God! What value does your “do” have if you aren’t resting in what He’s already done?
Love was never intended to be produced by effort or some magical act of the will. Apart from the very work of the Spirit of the Lord, love is impossible. For only He can produce (Gal 5:22-24), and perfect (1 Jhn 4:11&17) our love. We can only love or we only have the ability to love because He first loved us.” (1 Jhn 4:19)
What if we loved knowing what love actually is?