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Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Neon Words - Love

Dan wrote recently about "good", what it means, and how the word is abused and misunderstood. He called it a "neon word". I like that. There are many words today that serve as "neon words" to me. When they are used, they stand out because they are, in so many cases, misused.

One that stands out to me as a neon word is "love". We use it so loosely and eventually it seems to lose all meaning. Take, for example, the recent apology of the star of the Twilight series, Kristen Stewart. She was caught in compromising clenches with someone other than her current boyfriend.
I'm deeply sorry for the hurt and embarrassment I've caused to those close to me and everyone this has affected. This momentary indiscretion has jeopardized the most important thing in my life, the person I love and respect the most, Rob. I love him, I love him, I'm so sorry.
Actually, Kristen, your actions indicate what is "the most important thing in my life" -- your personal pleasure. Further, "love" doesn't do those things to the one who is loved. That's not love.

Okay, over the top ... fine. But we love so much these days. We love pizza and we love America. We love our mothers and we love our dogs. We love our computers and we love our spouses. We love our cars and we love our children. Are any of these forms related? When we speak of "lovers", are we referring to people who feel warmly or are we talking of people who are having sex? Are these two concepts connected? Perhaps I was over the top with my example of Kristen Stewart, but surely you can see that we have so twisted the word "love" as to mean a large swath of things, mostly unrelated.

Step off, then, to the biblical rendition.
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails (1 Cor 13:4-8).
How does this version of "love" fit with, say, Kristen Stewart's version? How does it fit with loving a good steak, loving your pet, or loving social media? Well, clearly it doesn't. Perhaps more disturbing, however, is the other side of that question. How well does it fit your form of loving your neighbor, your children, your spouse, your parents, your coworkers? The question I'm asking you to ask yourself is "Is there anything in my life that looks like that?"

Sure, there are different forms of love. I don't want to complain too much. Following the lead of Greek, there is the romantic-erotic version, the "natural/familial affection" version, the "brotherly love" version, and the now-famous agape version. And, yes, the first three do not live up to the description offered in 1 Corinthians 13. The problem I'm addressing is not that there are multiple versions. The problem I'm addressing is that we use the terms so interchangeably and without thought that they become no versions at all. Did you know that there are people who think of the eros version -- the "erotic" form -- and include "beating, torturing, and abusing" as a perfectly good, justifiable, legitimate version of "love". (There is a bestseller on the subject if you doubt me.) You see, when we get there, we've lost all understanding of the concept at all.

What I'm getting at, then, is two-fold. First, be careful how you use the word. It means something. Don't abuse it so badly that it loses all content. Second, we -- each of us -- need to carefully and constantly ask ourselves, "Do I love anyone in the way that the Bible describes 'love'?" That question can be disagreeable.

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