Today, I’ve been reading some unpopular descriptions of love:
Love can be lonely.
A one-way love – with no exit strategy.
To be faithful to a covenant, willing to love when every fibre of your being screams ‘run.’
A love that sets its will to love, regardless of the response of the one being loved.
Love determined to adhere to the covenant, acting not on feelings but on covenant.
I’m reading “A LOVING LIFE” by Paul Miller. In a world of broken relationships, in a world which believes love comes from feelings not from commitment, this book is deeply disturbing. It’s also profoundly moving, illuminating and arresting.
Miller is writing about the story of Ruth, in the Old Testament; and about hesed * love – love which is faithful, steadfast, committed. Hesed love is a one-way love, a commitment with no exit strategy; hesed love is determined to love, no matter what. And it is the essence of Calvary love.
It’s not very popular today, of course. Disneyesque love is determined by feelings, by a desire for happy ever after. It tells us to move on, move out, if feelings for the loved one no longer exist. Give up, in order to be true to yourself and to your true (new) feelings.
But that’s not hesed love, not the love of God. Not the love demonstrated in the life of Jesus. The Spirit of Jesus gives us the power to love no matter what our circumstances.
Not that hesed love pretends that everything is rosy when it clearly isn’t. In fact, because it knows things are not all rosy, hesed love sets its will to love regardless of the response of the one loved. It upholds the covenant, the commitment. “God’s grace works most powerfully when there is no exit, when we learn to love because we have no other choice.” (Miller)
I can’t pretend it’s easy – I know it’s not.
I know it’s costly.
I know it flies in the face of all modern convention.
But I do know it’s worth it. That I can only do it when the Spirit of the Lord flows through me with grace and mercy. And that the example of Philippians 2:1-11 is the only way it will work.
Humility, serving, dying.
It’s not glamorous, it doesn’t pay well (in this life) and it’s not popular.
But it’s the way Jesus loves me and all I can do is ask for the grace to love as he did and does.
For his greater glory.
*hesed – a unique Hebrew word, Miller explains, which in the KJV was translated as ‘deal kindly’ but actually combines ‘love’ and ‘loyalty.' A ‘steadfast love.’ Stubborn love, if you like.
Get it, read it, be changed by it. I haven't finished this book yet but already it is one of the most profound and transformative books I have ever read. It is hard hitting; my love is so paltry, so self-centred, self -righteous and with a sense of entitlement.
If I belittle those whom I am called to serve, talk of their weak points in contrast perhaps with what I think of as my strong points; if I adopt a superior attitude, forgetting “Who made thee to differ? And what hast thou that thou hast not received?” then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I find myself taking lapses for granted, “Oh, that’s what they always do,” “Oh, of course she talks like that, he acts like that,” then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I wonder why something trying is allowed, and press for prayer that it may be removed; if I cannot be trusted with any disappointment, and cannot go on in peace under any mystery, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I covet any place on earth but the dust at the foot of the Cross, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
That which I know not, teach Thou me, O Lord, my God.
From the book ‘If’ by Amy Carmichael