learning to say ‘i love you’

My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.

My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!

— 1 john 4:7-12, the message

since today is st. valentine’s day, i feel inclined to say a few words on the subject of love.

i’m not going to talk about romantic love, because whatever i could say there would only amount to an uneducated opinion.

i think, however, that it is unwise to limit our definition of “love” to romantic love, as so much of the valentine season buzz tends to. we can — and should — love each other deeply and fiercely. Jesus and the apostles talk about love all through the new testament, so, obviously, it’s important.

Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.

— john 13:34-35

that’s Jesus talking to His disciples. essentially He’s telling these guys:

1. love one another.

2. don’t hide it.

3. when people see you love another, they’ll see Me in you.

so here’s a question for you: to whom do you say “i love you?”

i should probably mention two things at this point:

1. i’m not good at loving people.

2. i’m not good at verbally expressing to people that i love them.

there are probably lots of solutions to these quandaries, but i thought of two, just to keep it simple:

1. humility.

2. practice.

the reason i’m not good at loving people is because i tend to be proud and judgmental. also, i really don’t like being vulnerable. but i think you have to be willing to be humble and vulnerable so that when you tell someone you love them it’s real and not just that cardboard phrase that tradition stuffed in your mouth.

i like what c.s. lewis says about this. it’s a weighty thought to digest, but a true weighty thought.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
― C.S. LewisThe Four Loves

i don’t know about the broken part, but my heart has definitely been wrung before. ow! it seems counterintuitive to allow ourselves to be hurt for the sake of loving someone else, doesn’t it?

He was despised and rejected by men; 
   a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief
and as one from whom men hide their faces 
   he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

 Surely he has borne our griefs 
   and carried our sorrows
yet we esteemed him stricken
   smitten by God, and afflicted
But he was pierced for our transgressions; 
   he was crushed for our iniquities; 
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, 
   and with his wounds we are healed. 

— isaiah 53:3-5, english standard version

Jesus, who as God was invincible, made Himself vulnerable to the point of death in the most humiliating form possible to bear all the hurts and wounds and sufferings of each of several billions of people who despised Him.

Jesus says we should love each other like He loved (loves) us.

i think reminding one another of this love we have among us is

a. healthy and
b. necessary.

yes, i know things can possibly get a little awkward in this regard among younger men and women in the age of twitterpation, and i personally am chief among awkward people with or without any feelings of emotional entwanglement. i don’t think that’s how it should be, though.

i think that when we say “i love you” to a brother or sister in Christ of any age, the weight of sentiment those three little words carry with them should be “i love you because Christ loves you and died for you. i love you because Christ loves me and died for me and enables me to love you. you are precious to Him and therefore precious to me, and i will serve you, protect you, and gladly fight and die beside you for the sake of the gospel.”

when i say “i love you,” that is what i want it to mean.

happy valentine’s day.