Just ask someone what falling in love means, I doubt you’ll find two people that will give you the same answer and I doubt anyone really knows.
Well here’s a thought: what if there really is no such thing as “falling in love?” Falling in love seems like an accident you were helpless to avoid. I don’t know about you but that somehow feels dangerous. Christ commanded that we should not be mastered by anything and I certainly don’t like the idea of being captive to some supernatural force. And there’s something off about crowning one of the most captivating, consuming and powerful experiences with nothing more than fickle emotions as changeable as seasons and notions of ‘missing them when they are gone.’ Doesn’t it all just seem terribly off with the mighty, unshakeable love portrayed in the Bible?
I believe that love is a choice and always a choice. The idea of falling in love is a dainty and romantic idea but one that falls miserably short of the true depth, height, and width of the glory and gore that is truly tasted on the battlefield of the unconditional, inseparable love of Christ we have been called to receive and give freely in return.
This love is inexorable.
It’s the love that gives grace away to the weakest places and undeserved forgiveness to the unforgivable. It is the love that identifies with the failure of the other and still chooses to lavish and sing love over them all the more. This love does not come by finding the perfect person but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly. It is love that is first patient so that it can be grateful for this person as God’s ‘masterpiece in progress’ because it sees them first as a redeemed child of King Jesus.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in attraction and quirky similarities that knit affinity. I believe in sweet gestures that tie and bind. I believe in the best friend of lovers that do not have to say a word to speak to each other, that keep the other smiling even when they are not there and that do not just move each others feet to dance but move the soul, in the sun and in the rain. These are all ravishing, exquisite moments in the story. But love that is enduring, everlasting and fulfilling is the embers that stay glowing steadily long after the burst of passionate flame. And that love is always a choice.
Do you know why it has to be? Because this is how our master, the One whose very name is Love, demonstrated and defined love. And we know that the servant is no better than the master. We walk the same road to overflowing and abundant life.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession…”
1 Peter 2:9
God chose Israel not because of any merit of their own. Not because He fell in love with them because their wittiness, beauty or intelligence impressed Him. In fact, when He asked for obedience, they disobeyed. God gave them promises dependent on their willingness to do what He asked and they did not do it. But He did not give up on them. It is the glory of His name that was at stake and is also the glory of His name that is at stake now when we do not choose to love as He did. God entered into a covenant relationship with Israel and so He took the responsibility upon Himself and in countless ways He bore with them, corrected them, punished them, goaded them and brought them to the promised land.
God drew us out of loving-kindness and He chose us to bear His name. And He committed to being whatever we needed; a pillar of light, falling bread, calamities that struck to bring us back and a sacrifice to free us from death of our sins.
This is how we know what love looks like.
We love because He first loved us and it has to be our choice too because if we claim to know God but are not constructive and slow to lose patience but instead are possessive, anxious to impress with inflated ideas of our own ideas; pursuing selfish advantage; keeping account of evil or gloating over the wickedness of the other person then we are not born of God. And all those things are choices we have to make every moment of every day.
For God so loved the world, He gave and when you give of yourself, love happens. When Love became manifested He lived to die, He bent low and washed feet. You don’t always end up giving because you love. Sometimes you end up loving because you give.
Love is devoted, not because of the person, but despite them. Love empties to fill never asking “Am I being served?” but always seeking all the ways it could bless. Love is the choice that does not cease because ceasing to love would mean ceasing to exist. Love is not something we give with our eyes on ourselves but we love others as if we are soldiers of Christ; we love faithfully, fully and honestly. We love with no limits to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope. This love can outlast anything because our commitment is not to the other person but to God Himself who weighs the hearts. We are committed to Him to meet the expectations He has called us to as spouses, sons, daughters, fathers or mothers because this is the holy, blameless sacrifice we can offer to Christ. This is the love that is built on a rock. This, as St Paul says, is the one thing that stands when all else has fallen. It is love rooted in the One thing; in Christ above and before all. And a life contemplating the love of Christ becomes a life being the love of Christ, to the point where we must love in every situation or we deny ourselves and God who dwells in us.
“And whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men…”
Passionately serving Christ alone, makes us loving servants to all; when the eyes of the heart focus on God and the hands on washing His feet alone. We must see all our relationships as a choice to serve God, to ask “How else can I serve you?”, to honor the things precious to God and in the process be transfigured and transformed more into Love Himself as we grow in obedience and die to our desires and instead pour out and bleed love. Soldiers of Christ bleed. Christ bled out and His blood washes, His blood saves; this gift received in communion gives us the strength to count each unmet expectation and hurt in our relationships as a gift. A gift, yes. It is the chance to learn to pray for instead of complain about, and to bear with instead of burden. Even in the pain we can now love and give thanks for the person because they have given us that one sliver of a chance, like the thief on the cross, to steal salvation and dance in fountains of grace as one more room in our heart yields to the potter’s moulding hands. The world and our nearest and dearest will know us by this love of Christ that can never love too much.
The selfless, servant-hearted love is not something you fall into. But a way you choose to walk. So don’t fall in love. Rise up and walk in love. Forgive me if I sound like your next jaded cynic for not believing in falling in love. I think you might find that it is quite the contrary, because this love is the most mystical, divine and enchanting of all. This is the love that sparkles with the very radiance of the heavenly romance of Christ and His beloved – us.
Greater love has no man than this indeed.