With St. Valentine’s day fast approaching, it is time to post on love! (With only 2 days to go, I am open for gift suggestions for my wife.) Part of the fun and poignancy of this blog is how the name – Be A Better Lover – unsettles and reorients. In our hyper-sexual culture, the word “lover” in connection with following Jesus is a bit jolting – disorienting. It also serves to remind followers of Jesus of our ultimate concern (God is love) and calling (to love God, self and neighbor)! It invites us to fix our spirits on the radical, revolutionary, incomprehensible, we have never seen anything like this, we don’t have words to express this – unimaginable love of God in Jesus the Christ.
When we are honest, we quickly find that we are ill-prepared to be good lovers. One reason for our unpreparedness stems from the dominant Christian themes in our culture. Few churches or Christian leaders speak primarily about being lovers and loving well. We are more likely to hear how Jesus died for our sins or led to pray the sinners prayer before we are Left Behind; than be encouraged to be a better lover.
A second reason comes from the undefinable nature of the love Jesus commands of us. We can see this dynamic in the earliest followers. Their experience of Jesus was so radical they could not fully explain it. Why do we have four Gospels? The experience of Jesus is so beyond words that one Gospel could not convey their experiences of Jesus nor the fullness of love.
Further, these followers did not even have a word that could convey their experience of Jesus! Set aside every sermon you have heard where the preacher explained – “there are three Greek words for love – eros, philia, and agape . . .” At the time of Jesus, only two of those words were in use – eros and philia. Agape was a little used word with a small semantic range. The followers of Jesus chose it because it was in essence a blank sheet. They used “agape” to point to their new understanding of love and to define it anew. Agape is defined by Jesus and the way he loved through his relationships, ministry, teaching, preaching, healing, praying, life, death, and resurrection.
I like the phrase – the radical, revolutionary, incomprehensible, we have never seen anything like this, we don’t have words to express this – unimaginable love of God – to convey this undefinable nature of love.
This understanding of love has significant implications for how we follow Jesus. We must be in relationship and we must be attentive to the moves and needs of Jesus and our neighbors. Following is very dynamic! Some will be frustrated by the lack of simple, rigid, direction. Yet, it is in the ebb and flow of this living relationship where faith is sustained and abundant life is experienced.