// this is what love looks like…

sweets (wow)

Something about what Heidi Baker said a couple of weeks ago stuck in my mind – one particular phrase, to be precise. “Love looks like something.” Simple, admittedly, but also possible to miss entirely…

What does your image of love look like?

There’s a couple of simple, stock Christian answers – first, that our image of love is the image of Christ; dying on a cross in an act of perfect sacrifice, giving his life in submission, born out of love for others – in short, modelling what perfect love looks like. The second is the ‘1 Corinthians 13‘ answer: love is patient, love is kind; it always hopes, always trusts, always perseveres; it is not self-seeking, and so on. Both are good answers, but if they’re yours, then again, it’s worth asking – what does your image of love look like?

That is to say, when you think of love, what comes to mind? You know, what do you picture love that is “patient and kind” as looking like in practice? What is your image of Jesus – is he an exemplary figure from a book, or a day-to-day reality? None of this is intended to be condemnatory, but they’re good questions to ask.

Love looks like something. So what does love look like?

Recently, what’s struck me most of all hasn’t been the abstract qualities of love – ie. it’s patient, it’s kind, it perseveres, trusts, hopes – but the actual, practical reality. I’m astonished at the amount of people who have tolerated my exhaustion and rudeness in the past couple of months spent revising; my cell group, who showed up every day of my exams, bringing sweets to my house; the people who prayed, who took time out to check I was okay, who showed up to celebrate at the end of it all. Thanks, guys: you help me see what love looks like. This might sound like trivial stuff, but it arguably represents a deep resolve towards sacrifice that has a resonance beyond itself. There is more going on here than initially meets the eye.

Paul wrote to the Galatians telling them, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”; to the Ephesians he described how “we are God’s workmanship, created anew in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand.” I couldn’t count the number of people who come up to the front of our services weekly asking for a greater experience of God’s love. That’s a great desire, but we need to accept that God’s love is made visible in His people and given in order that we demonstrate it to the world…

Love looks like something, but what if love looks like you? If you have ‘been crucified with Christ, and now Christ lives in you’, that means that you are the image of Christ’s love, at least in part. Sure, we’re being transformed, and we’re still flawed, but we need to remember that we are also reflections of God’s love to the rest of this world. A greater experience of God’s love doesn’t simply come down to receiving a greater sense of security and purpose, although that may be part of it; it’s given in order that we look outwards, that we start communicating that love elsewhere.

Love looks like something, and there’s something in that. What does our love look like? Is it a love focussed inwardly, on God, in church; on receiving His love, and pouring it back on Him? Is it a love focussed outwards, on His people, pouring out into the wider world in a natural overflow? It must be both, of course, but it can never be just one or the other. In the same way, our love either looks abstract or visible, and again that question recurs: how visible is our love? How noticeable is it? It would pay to be asking ourselves those questions, especially as we stand in church asking for a greater dose of God’s love – do we know what we are asking for? And do we realise what it will cost?

Maybe it’s just me that occasionally struggles with worshipping an invisible God, but its also comforting to know that He’s transforming His people into His image, a visible reflection of His character, His nature, His goodness. Our part is to make sure that we keep living like that, keep seeking and experiencing His love and keep modelling it to the world.

Love looks like something.

Is it you?

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  1. April 23rd, 2010

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