Advent week 2-Love: The Impossible Made Possible in Christ
Written by Erika Castiglione
The concept of Biblical love can get muddled by several factors. Of course, there are the many different words that have gotten translated into the more generic “love,” but considering that we have already worked through the fact that love for a parent and love for a spouse and love for ice cream are all very different things, what do we really mean when we say that we are to love God and love our neighbor? If these are the greatest commandments, certainly we want to get these right.
Although we tend to put verses about love on stationery and posters or recite them at weddings when we’re at the height of our feelings of amorous bliss, if you look at the instructions in 1 Corinthians 13, they are rather daunting: exercising patience, keeping no record of wrongs, always protecting, trusting, hoping, persevering. Likewise, Jesus’ description of the way love is played out in his kingdom (Matthew 5-7) seems glorious, but a little…impossible. Surely, he doesn’t place burdens on us beyond what we can bear. How do we live out these truths when we don’t feel loving? How do we live them out even when we do feel the desire to love?
1 John 4:19 simply states, “we love because he first loved us,” and that wonderful truth brings all the other verses about love into focus. Hopefully, one of the first truths a child will hear in church is that Jesus loves them. It can take a lifetime to be transformed to the point of fully believing it, but the Bible really does make clear throughout every book, and in the grand narrative, that God does love us. In fact, he loves these fallen creatures he has made and called his own so much that he goes as far as comparing himself to husband longing for his bride (Hosea 2:19-20), a parent feeding and tenderly guiding a toddler (Hosea 11:1-4), a father who runs to meet a son who has squandered his grace (Luke 15:11-32), and a risen king coming back to take us home (Revelation 21:1-4).
We tend to think of love as an emotion, an ethereal experience that can’t be measured, yet most of the biblical examples of love are physical and quite gritty. The ultimate example of love is displayed in an actual body torn and bleeding on the cross and an actual body, scars and all, raised triumphant from the grave. But, before that, there is the incarnation. The God of the universe choosing to enter our world through the birth canal of a virgin, willingly humbling himself to the point of depending on those he created for his own sustenance and protection.
Oh, how our lives would be so different if we would more readily accept and embrace this great love lavished on us! Wouldn’t we be freed up to love more whole-heartedly and generously? We could be able to more readily be a part of what the Bible Project refers to as an “ecosystem of others-focused, self-giving love.”
A friend once sent me a video clip of her son “practicing” for his kindergarten school dance-a-thon. I love it because it’s truly adorable, but also because I hear her and her husband in the background laughing, clapping, and cheering him on. Their delight is so evident, and it’s reflected in their son’s smile. What a beautiful picture of the joy that comes from being secure in love. I pray we would know that kind of joy as our heavenly father sings over us in love this advent season and always.
On that day the announcement to Jerusalem will be, “Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid! For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
-Zephaniah 3:16-17 NLT