Love can be described in many ways. Love has been described in many ways. Love is like a ﬁre; love is like water; love is like the wind. Above all of these, love is active. Love can be expressed in many ways; however, unless it is expressed it is not love.
My dictionary app deﬁnes love, as a noun, as “a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person; a feeling of warm personal attachment to a parent, a child, or a friend.”1 As a verb love is deﬁned as “having a profoundly tender, passionate, affection for (another person).” 2 So, according to my dictionary app, love is reducible to an emotion.
Love, however, is not an emotion. Unless we understand love from this perception – Jane tells her cold, nearly naked neighbor who has knocked on her door, “I love you.” Yet, upon ﬁnishing her brief conversation, Jane leaves her neighbor in the bitter cold, to deal with the ravaging elements as best suits him. Jane has an emotional feeling for her neighbor, but she has not loved him. She has emoted toward him.
To reduce love to an emotion or to a sympathy is to deﬁne it as something unable to transform reality. To reduce love to a sympathy is to claim that I love my marginalized, oppressed neighbor and the people group of which she is a part without ﬁghting against the systems of injustice which oppress her and her people. I may be sympathetic toward her and her cause, but I do not love her. I have sympathized with her.
When we reduce love to emotion and to sympathy, we make it impotent. We turn it into “an inauthentic word, one which is unable to transform reality…[It then] becomes an empty word, one which cannot denounce the world, for denunciation is impossible without a commitment to transform, and there is no transformation without action.”3
Love is no longer love when it has become only emotion and sympathy. It is then impotent. That impotence is unable to birth a new world. Though emotion and sympathy may cause the person who is emoting and sympathizing to feel good about themselves, those feelings of goodness have no capacity to give life to the cold neighbor and oppressed people in their midst.
Love is active. As a follower of Jesus, I ﬁnd this most profoundly expressed in Christ’s incarnation, in his life, his teaching, his passion, his death, and his resurrection. Throughout the whole story, epilogue, narrative, and prologue, love is continuously active. The very act of God the Son becoming a noisy little baby boy was an action of love. Jesus life, ﬁlled with actions that could be described as revolutionary were so often actions of love to the least of his society. His passion, death, and resurrection. All love. All active. And that is how we understand ourselves, as Jesus followers, as knowing love.4
We know love because Jesus laid down his life for us. It was the love of God the Father and God the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. For those of us who are Jesus followers, that is the love that envelopes us and courses through our very being. That is the love that is active and has the power to transform reality.
However, when, as followers of Jesus, we act as though it is okay to be passive agents whose only responsibility to make verbal expressions of emotion and sympathy, it is then we who run the risk of aborting the new life, the new reality, that can only be accomplished through love.
A love that is, ﬁrst and foremost, active.
Written by: Dan Lowe i’mnoticarus. wordpress.com
1dictionary.com app, n. “love”
2dictionary.com app, v. “love”
3Paulo Friere, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York: Continuum, 2010), 87.
41 John 3:16 (New Revised Standard Version)