So, in a previous post, I began “Tackling the Love Problem.” Then I wrote about “The incredible primacy of love… It’s more important than we think.” Next, I said that “We have everything we need to love others.”
What is the “love problem”? It’s quite simple actually. Jesus said all people would know us by our love. But, when you ask people what they think about Christians, love is far, far down the list… if it even makes the list. We have a love problem.
There are a couple of things that I always hear when I talk about love. 1) Love is a heart issue, and it’s not about what we do or don’t do. 2) We are loving people, but they just don’t understand or perceive or recognize our love.
To begin with, I agree completely that love is a heart issue, but I disagree that love is not about what we do or what we don’t do. I think it’s both – it is a heart issue and also a practical issue.
But, for the most part, I want to focus on the second response: “We are loving people, but they just don’t understand or perceive or recognize our love.” I think, as we consider this statement, you’ll see why I responded as I did above to the first statement (i.e., that love is both a heart issue and a practical issue).
In the Gospel of Luke, when Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love God and love your neighbor, someone immediately asked him, “Well who is my neighbor?” As an answer, Jesus provided the story that we now call “The Good Samaritan”:
Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:30-37 ESV)
If I can, I’d like to point out a few things from this story:
1) Although I’ve heard it brought out many times in sermons and read about it in articles and books, Jesus does not mention the heart or motivation for the priest and the Levite. He only talks about their actions (or lack of actions).
2) In the same way, Jesus does not tell us how the Samaritan feels about God or the beaten man. He only tells us about the Samaritan’s actions.
3) When Jesus asked the lawyer, “Which of these three proved to be a neighbor (i.e., loved the other person)?”, the lawyer did not ask about heart or motivation. He only responded based on the actions of the priest, Levite, and Samaritan.
4) The lawyer quickly and easily recognized that the Samaritan was the good neighbor by his actions.
Is heart and motivation important? YES! Absolutely. But when Jesus said, “They will know you by your love,” he was talking about our actions. When Jesus said, “Love your neighbor,” he was talking about our actions.
And, if this story is a good indication, then those actions will be easily recognized by others as actions motivated by love.
Series on the “Love Problem”
- Tackling the Love Problem
- The incredible primacy of love… It’s more important than we think
- We have everything we need to love others
- Love is easily recognized as love
- So, why does the church have a love problem?