Lent: What is Love?

Rachel Held Evans wrote a thought-provoking post today over on her blog.

‘One of the most destructive mistakes we Christians make is to prioritize shared beliefs over shared relationship, which is deeply ironic considering we worship a God who would rather die than lose relationship with us.’

Rachel Held Evans, post ‘My Parents‘.

This echoes an unrelated post, from Contemplative in the Mud, about the need for relationship to be the primary expression of love (a post so good I printed it off and stuck it on my fridge). Ben writes:

‘Before all projects, before all plans, before all works and actions is being… How could we have forgotten the overriding value of simply who and what we are, in a kind of rest at the centre of our heart, which overflows onto the tiniest of our gestures, lines on our face, attention to details in the lives of others, and so on? How could we have forgotten that, beneath all the action anyone could do to or with others, there exists the substructure of the relationship in itself?’

Contemplative in the Mud, post ‘Before All Else: Being

Indeed, both of these posts reach the heart of Paul’s famous words to the church at Corinth:

If I speak with the eloquence of men and of angels, but have no love, I become no more than blaring brass or crashing cymbal… 

This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience—it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance.

Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. It does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men when truth prevails.

Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen…

In this life we have three great lasting qualities—faith, hope and love. But the greatest of them is love.

1 Corinthians 13:1,4-8,13 (Phillips)

Paul goes to great lengths to establish love as the source of everything else, and this is echoed elsewhere in the bible: in the book of Isaiah, in the Psalms, in Jesus’ own words in the Gospels, in the book of James, in Paul’s letters to other churches… and that’s just off the top of my head! The list goes on.

So why do we still insist that being right is more important than being loving? Am I without sin, that I may throw the first stone at the one who is ‘wrong’? Did Jesus emphasise ‘rightness’ first? Or did He, in fact, emphasise relationship first, as Rachel, Ben and the biblical writers suggest?

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