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Love in Times of Hate

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The mystery of love is profound. It is incredible how much of our lives we structure around something about which we know so little. This generation, especially, seems fixated on the idea of love. But just that — the idea. Few are willing to pursue true love.

As with freedom, we have inherited a whimsical fable of love we continue to pursue to our great disappointment. We are terribly depressed because we are not truly pursuing love but self-gratification. The very opposite of love.

I was reminded of this as I watched the new movie, “Paul, Apostle of Christ,” this weekend. The movie chronicles the last days of Paul’s ministry as he is incarcerated in Rome.  Luke, the Evangelist, goes to visit him to write down some of his teachings.

Paul’s teaching concentrates on one main idea: Love. “There is only one way,” he’s heard saying in the movie. This emphasis is found in his writings. “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love,” he wrote in his famous 1 Corinthians 13 passage (verse 13).

You would think this movie would be the perfect drama for our generation. It is not.

This world knows not the love about which Paul talks.  Not only that, most people emphatically reject it.  We prefer our own idea of love, however false it may be. That is why I know this movie will not be a smashing hit. It not only talks about true love, it shows it through the suffering of Paul and the entire community of Christians who are in hiding and enduring many trials. It is a sorrowful movie (See 2 Corinthians 6:10).

Suffering and trials are not part of this generation’s idea of love. Modern love is about being happy and making your dreams come true. It’s about loving and accepting yourself.

It’s miserable.

The love about which Paul preached was Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). It is not about accepting, but about denying yourself (Matthew 16:24). Love is about suffering. It is indeed about the joy of enduring and overcoming life’s many trials (John 16:33).

Talk to one of those rare couples with half-a-century of marriage under their belts about love. Most people have never come close to experiencing such depths. Talk to loving mothers and fathers after they’ve raised a whole family through life’s many challenges. It is why many today actively reject marriage and/or children. They don’t want that kind of love.

But that is the only love there is. True love. Lasting love. Paul explained it vividly: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Nobody wants that love. The essence of modern love is for each to “seek his own.” It should be no wonder why the more loudly and aggressively we seek and demand this “free” love, the more hate and loneliness and depression and hopelessness and darkness rule the day.

There is another way. Paul’s suffering, sacrificial kind of love. But who wants that?

It is one of the things many will not understand about “Paul, Apostle of Christ.” The church was growing exponentially in Paul’s time as they were living in hiding, being persecuted, beaten, imprisoned, and even killed for their faith. How can that be? No one wants to live like that, do they?

What could the Christian community possibly be experiencing that can justify joining them when such sufferings and trials await?

You guessed it; it is love. Real, authentic, raw, genuine, powerful love. A love of which many have only heard about. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1a). This is the kind of love that we cannot experience of our own accord, but that flows freely from the Father toward those who believe.

It is a love that, as Paul wrote, never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8). It survived the oppression of the first century and endures throughout the ages. It still shines today, and I pray that its light opens your spiritual eyes to the beauty and mystery of this daring kind of love.

This is the love that can change your life. It is the love that can change the world. It already has.