Last week I was reading something on the internet - I can't even remember what it was now - and the phrase "love hard" jumped out at me.
I'm sure it was some sort of inspirational article regarding the necessary requirements of a happy life, or perhaps the top ten things you should do in 2011, or maybe even a short story about someone's personal experience with a murderer?
Who can say. In any case, it stuck with me.
But what does it mean to love hard? I think it means to love wholly and completely. To love so powerfully that you would give your life for someone. And to love so perfectly that you would be willing to forgive anything.
Like Jesus loves us.
To love hard is...well, hard. There are so few people in the word I would be willing to give my life for. In fact, there are few people in the world I would be willing to give up two hours of my day for. And that's a little bit sad. Actually, it's a lot sad.
What is the Bible without love? Matthew 22:34-40 says:
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisses got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (NIV)
Answer: The Bible without love is incomprehensible. Similarly, our lives without love have no meaning. And I'm not talking about "I should do this out of pity" love, or "I bet I can love the sin right out of them" love. I'm talking about real love.
Imagine John 3:16, one of the most well-known verses of the Bible: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (NIV) How less wonderful would that be if the verse said, "For God felt such pity on the world..." or "For God so badly wanted to correct the world..."
What? What kind of gift is that when it's given in pity or with a desire to improve? That's not real love. Though sadly, it is the kind of love I often display. So not only do I fail to "love hard," but I fail to show a godly love in any substantial quantity.
So how do I fix this? The Bible school 101 answer is "love like Jesus."
Well, duh. Wouldn't that be nice? Unfortunately, no one will ever reach that standard. Instead, perhaps I can say a good start to the solution is to talk to Jesus. Ask Him to help me place others before myself. And not just when I put money in the offering plate, but all the time. Ask Him to teach me to love like He loves. Ask Him to help me love hard.