It has often been said “Whoever controls the language controls the debate.” This thought was more fully expressed by George Orwell in his novel “1984”.
If you control the language, you control the argument. If you control the argument, you control information. If you control information, you control history. If you control history, you control the past. He who controls the past controls the future.” – Big Brother, 1984
This has been playing out before our eyes in various areas of society. For example, witness the ongoing tussle regarding “Pro-Life” vs “Anti-choice” or “Pro-choice” vs “Pro-Abortion”. Words and labels affect how we view key issues and a key strategy in approaching a debate is to reframe the language to avoid the core substance of an issue. We are now witnessing this playing out once again with the word “Love”. Note how frequently many recent debates on the issues of our day eventually result in a statement such as “The most important thing is that we love (insert person or group) them regardless of the choices they make.” It has now become necessary to ask what the person means by the term “love” in statements like this. Or as Tina Turner famously sang “Whats love got to do with it?”
With all due respect to my atheist friends, I believe most people would not have an issue with a universally held value that God is love. All faiths and traditions express this type of perspective. Even if they differ on the answer to the question “Who is God?” common ground seems to exist on the concept that whoever he/she may be, love is at the core of this being. Even atheists will cite this concept, albeit often in challenging those of a particular faith.
So if you can accept this concept as a starting point, I’ll attempt to build this out from my admittedly Christian perspective (I prefer the term Jesus follower) and as such hope to challenge those readers who would claim the same belief system. My core perspective is this – If God is love and Jesus is the express image of God in human form, then Jesus’ statements and actions define the word. Full stop. Put another way, if you want to know what love is, look at Jesus. All of him.
Unfortunately, in our day and age it would appear that many have defined love as a sentimental, lovey, gushy feeling that always accepts whatever is presented or chosen by others without any response or challenge. “Love them where they are at” is one of the mantras of this mindset. While true to an extent, it is simply one side of a multi-faceted concept that does not come anywhere close to all of what Jesus said and did. In fact, this uni-dimensional concept of love, when attributed to Jesus, is a form of creating God in our own image to the extent that it can become an idol. By all means, feel free to define this as love, just don’t cite Jesus as your example.
Rather than expound on this issue further, let’s explore the multi-faceted concept of love as demonstrated by love personified – Jesus the Christ. Meditate and think about these things and let that influence your concept of love. This will stretch you as it stretches me. The tension in this issue should be obvious and I would suggest it is intentional on Jesus’ part. May we not fall for those who would redefine love to control the argument or issues of the day. The meanings of words are important.
“Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
“You are my friends if you obey my commandments.”
In defending one caught in sin:
“Neither do I condemn you.”
“Go and sin no more.”
On parents and family:
“Honour your father and mother”
“Who is my father and mother, brother and sister? Those that hear the word of God and obey it.” Editorial note: This statement was made when his mother and brothers were waiting outside to take him away from what he was doing. It would have really hurt his family’s feelings! (sarc on)
“Your enemies will be those of your own household.”
Addressing religious leaders and teachers of the law:
“You must be born again to see the Kingdom of God” (to a sincere seeker)
“You hypocrites, whitewashed tombs, brood of vipers, your father is the Devil” (to insincere seekers and controlling leaders)
To an immoral woman who had come to a well at mid-day to avoid detection:
“If you had known who asked you for a drink you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
“You have answered correctly, for you have had five husbands and the one you are currently living with is not your husband.”
To one of his closest friends (Simon Peter):
“Blessed are you Simon for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but your Father in heaven.”
“Get behind me Satan”.
There are many similar examples throughout Jesus life that could also be cited. I have intentionally not provided chapter and verse for these references and in fact have paraphrased them in the hope that you will search for the stories, settings and context of when and where they occurred and who was present. Check them out. Wrestle with them. Comment on this post and get some dialogue going on this critical issue.
I close with this thought for all to ponder. It is critical at this time in history that we be unafraid to challenge those who would define love to suit their own agenda and to control the argument and debate about the key issues of our time. As a follower of Jesus, I am especially concerned that many who identify as such are falling for this ancient trick. “Has God said?” is the time tested satanic strategy to separate us from God. Yes, God has said everything he needs to say on the subject of love. He has spoken through his Son, who has demonstrated all we need to know. However, let’s not limit our understanding of it to the aspects of Jesus that make us the most comfortable. If he is all there is to love, then love is all of who he is.
Whats love got to do with it? Everything…and his name is Jesus. All of him.