here are very few things that I am sure of in life. For instance, I am sure that the man who invented the sandwich deserves sainthood, knighthood, and a battlefield commission. I am sure that the push-to-start sink faucet was the worst idea ever. And I am fairly sure that nobody puts baby in a corner. Beyond that, all of life is a mystery to me.
But when I consider myself, I find there is another thing that I am sure of: I am sure that I am hardwired for love. The funny thing is that I cannot really tell you why I feel this way, nor that I am even sure I know what I mean when I say it. I guess you could say that I’ve seen too many movies, or that I’m just being romantic and idealistic. But for whatever reason, I find that I speak about my desire for love with tremendous confidence. I seek it unconsciously, the way I seek water when I’m thirsty. I want to be loved.
Here’s what’s interesting about this: even as I seek to be loved, I find I’m not very good at loving others. I guess I try to love people, but only up to a point. Whenever it inconveniences me, I can usually excuse myself out of whatever I need to do. Typing these words is both embarrassing and convicting, but it’s the truth.
When I was growing up, my youth pastor taught me that love is a selfless concern for another’s best good. Not a bad definition, all things considered. Today, however, I want to suggest a slight amendment.
There’s a song by Peter Gabriel called “The Book of Love” that begins with a fantastic line: “The book of love is long and boring.” It sounds like he’s talking about waiting for a bus, doesn’t it? As far as adjectives go, “long and boring” is about as un-sexy as it gets. But I think he’s right. Too often, we confuse love with passion. But the times that I’ve felt most loved are not necessarily full of passion. Honestly, they’re pretty mundane and routine. But usually it involves someone in my life moving towards me in a time when I didn’t deserve it or didn’t appreciate it. I treasure these memories, and most of them are, frankly, quite boring. They revealed a love that was willing to endure me at less than my best.
This is exactly the kind of love we see God exhibiting towards his people in the Bible. We see it in the person of Jesus Christ, born in humiliating circumstances and suffering servant of all. Jesus does not endure the life He endured because he felt like it. He did so because God had made a covenant with his people, and He bound Himself to his word. “Feeling” had little to do with it, and his death was the single greatest act of love the world has ever seen. That’s because Jesus knew something about love that we often forget: love is not cheap. Anything that says otherwise is a lie. Love is more than just a concern for another’s good. It’s a commitment to endure, even in times when we’d rather not.
It’s easy for us to follow the path of least resistance when it comes to relationships. It’s less work. We don’t much care for long or boring if we can help it; the easier and more convenient, the better. But that is not how God defines love. When we look at Scripture, we find a God who demonstrated His love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Jesus died for us. His love was characterized primarily by patience and long-suffering. He was committed to his people. That’s what covenant means: a binding agreement to never give up. Just as the Father comes running to his prodigal son when he comes wandering home, so does our Father run to meet us when we come to Him. If we’re going to call ourselves Christians, we need to love people like that.
So as we gear up for yet another holiday season, let us be the kind of people willing to love others in small ways, boring ways, ways that test our patience and drive us nuts. Let us make our neighborhoods and our cities marvel at our unrelenting commitment to never give up on them. Because the book of love is long and boring. But I love it when my God reads it to me. And I love it when we read it together, for His glory and the good of all peoples.