Love is more than a notion

Published 12:15 pm Thursday, June 9, 2022

In a recent Bible study at our church, we began by sharing our feelings on the massacres in Buffalo, New York, and Uvale, Texas.

Some remarked on how sad it was that the bright lights of so many young people had been snuffed out so prematurely, and others bemoaned the loss of so many elderly who were pillars of their community and who, undoubtedly, were troves of wisdom to have lived so long and to have met such a violent end.

As the discussion evolved to include bad things happening in farther-away places and tragedies closer to home, I reminded the congregation of the power of love. At the risk of sounding naive and cliché, what the world needs now is love.

I am not referring to the sappy, doe-eyed portrayal of love that leaves one smitten and emotionally helpless. Rather, I am speaking of the love that the Bible speaks of – the kind of love that I now call a “work horse.” In the Christian Bible, love is always at work. It is never dormant, waiting for someone to notice it, waiting for accolades or acknowledgement. It does not wait to be asked; it is applied wherever there is a need.

In the wake of the recent string of harrowing tragedies in our country, from mass shootings to human trafficking to racism to domestic violence, the cause is the absence of love.

When we apply love to any situation, we are able to invoke empathy, and not just sympathy.

Sympathy says, “I feel sorry FOR you,” creating a safe, uninvolved distance between the speaker and the problem, whereas empathy goes a step further and says, “I feel sorry WITH you,” and then steps in and compels us to do for others what we would want done for ourselves.

When we apply love to any situation, we are able to see others as we would want to be seen.

So, when we witness children going astray, doing the wrong thing, love does not think “those kids,” as if some are better than or worse than others. Love thinks, “I would want someone to reach out to my kid and show them kindness, encouraging them to do better, and give them an alternative to what they are doing.”

When we apply love to any situation, we insert ourselves and respond as if it is our mother or father, spouse or child, friend or loved one in danger, in need, scared, sick, or lost – and we do precisely what we want done for us.

I refer to love as a work horse because a work horse is loyal and powerful, it will do exactly what its owner requires of it, and in return it only asks to be sheltered in a place that nourishes it. Love is the same way, and requires the same thing.

Every day a work horse will perform the same tasks over and over, only stopping when the work for the day is finished. Love is like that. Every day it covers a multitude of sins, it applies mercy where judgment was demanded, it forgives when it had a right to retain anger, it comforts when loneliness is a shroud. Love is always at work, whether in some magnanimous way for all the world to see or in some small way that makes a world of difference to just one person.

In order for love to activate, it must be authentically applied, not just talked about in Bible study or rationed out to those who we deem deserve it. That’s the powerful part about love. It is not a respecter of persons; it sees only the need, not the person.

Now, I know there are those who may say that consequences come with certain actions, and that the problem with the world today is that no one is being held accountable. I don’t disagree. In fact, I am a champion for accountability, and I do not think that applying love and holding people accountable are mutually exclusive.

Even the scriptures teach us that Jesus chastises those whom He loves. Without a doubt, I am certain that there will be enough people who will scoff at this perspective and continue to condemn people who do wrong things. Condemnation casts people away, but applying love with correction will draw people closer. After all, an eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind.

We have to ask ourselves what do we want our community and our world to look like? To be like? Then we must take ownership in the fact that what we do and how we act will create that community, that world. It is not up to the government, elected officials, church leaders or civic groups, no matter how well-intentioned any of these entities are. It is up to each one of us.

Love is more than a notion. It is not rainbows and unicorns, hearts and flowers, or even thoughts and prayers. It is the world’s most powerful weapon.

FAITH JONES, M. ED. Is the pastor of Union Branch Baptist Church in Arvonia. She can be reached at faithlcjones@gmail.com.