Those words come from a song by Larry Norman. It was his album, “Only Visiting This Planet” that provided me, a Led Zeppelin listening new Christian, with some great rock n roll that focused on Jesus. That quote from the Beatles and the commentary on their eventual inability to work together tells us something of the worlds shallow and impoverished view of love. Being that it’s Valentines Day it seem appropriate to take a look at what ideal of love really is. For that there is no better place to look than the words of Jesus.
“Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” John 15:13
Those words point clearly to the ultimate expression of love and as such point us to what love is really supposed to be all about. To hear people talk of love today, and talk of their experiences of love, you would be convinced that love is this fickle, emotional, euphoria that sweeps over you without your control. It is a sense of joy and delight that you experience in relation to another person. It is great when you have it but it may come or go on a whim without you being able to do anything about it. It is something you “fall into” and can just as quickly “fall out of”. If life with a person is light and breezy then you must be in love. If it starts to get hard, they disappoint you, you have a difference of opinion, then love must have moved on and you are now no longer in love with them. All I can say to that is “horse-hockey”. (to quote Colonel Potter from M.A.S.H)
That definition of love should have been left behind in 8th grade. It is the stuff of giddy school girls and overly optimistic boys hoping for some action at the school dance. It is a step above the passing of notes that ask, “Do you like me?” Check, Yes, No, or Maybe. It is a sad state of affairs when a vast majority of our culture is stuck at a middle school level of emotional understanding.
The love that the Bible and therefore Jesus, speaks about is a love that is deep and strong and will last through the most difficult of times. It is a love that is not concerned about what we are getting out of the relationship so much as it is what we are investing in the life of the other person. Think about the love of a parent for a child. We have all seen unhealthy examples of parents who derive their emotional sustenance from their children. Their children become little emotional booster shots for them. They find their validation as a person in their children because they make them feel so good inside. When the child starts pulling away or rejecting the parents oversight in some way, their world collapses and they give up being a parent. A healthy love for ones child means that a parent is going to do all the hard things needed as a parent so that their child can grow to love and follow Jesus. They are going to sacrifice their time and energy and heart. They are going to risk angering their child by requiring certain behaviors from them. They are going to have nights of tears and days in prayer over their child. Much of that time will be devoid of warm fuzzies and joyful tingles. It will be hard work. But it is love as Jesus speaks of love.
The same is true of spouses. Paul makes it clear when he writes to the Ephesians in chapter 5 that husbands and wives are to submit their lives to one another. He speaks specifically to husbands saying they are to lay down their lives for their wife, just as Jesus did for the church, His bride. The greatest expression of love comes when we sacrifice for another, not when we get all warm and starry eyed thinking about them.
When we sacrifice for those we love and do it without expecting them to return the sacrifice, then our love for them grows even deeper. There is a very real sense in which love properly understood and properly given gets stronger in the giving. On the other hand love improperly understood and improperly given is drained away and dies a slow death with each expression. The reason for that is the love that focuses on what we feel or are getting out of the relationship can never be satisfied. It is like a drug addict who develops a tolerance to the drug. Over time he needs more of the drug in higher doses to get the same euphoria. If he does not get it, he dies. Self serving love needs more and more of the experience of euphoria to sustain itself. But like a drug it consumes the consumer. Love that looks to give itself away in service to another is something that according to God’s economy, keeps giving and getting stronger the more it gives itself away. To quote another of my heroes, Mr. Spock from Star Trek, “It is not logical, but I have never the less found it to be true”.
The more you give yourself away in love and in the power of Christ, the stronger your love grows. The more you focus on the needs of the other, at least as much as you focus on your own, your love will get deeper. The more you look for ways to honor your beloved and sacrifice yourself for them, the more you will experience being blessed. Because you see, the love that sacrifices for another finds it’s highest reward and blessing in the benefit of the other.
How different might the music scene have been if the Beatles had learned that all you need is love that puts the other person first and sacrifices for them, instead of love that always measures if you are getting more out of the relationship than you are putting in?