“This is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight” (Phil. 1:9). It is not enough just to love. We need love that is filled with “knowledge and full insight” found in Jesus Christ. Frankly, love is as likely to be destructive as it is to be upbuilding, as likely to become a curse as a blessing. As Joan Crawford, a great actress of a past generation, said, “Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your hearth or burn down your house, you can never tell.” She was right.
The love of some can justify our betrayal and destruction of others. Wars are fought and affairs are pursued in the name of love. Scripture says, “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). But too often love masks sins
both personal and social sins and claims there is nobility, honor and good causes where there really are none. We have good
reason to be wary of some expressions of love. All we have to do is to look around at love’s ruins.
Not all love is equal. Jesus taught, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:12-14). The love he commands and commends is a love like his: self-giving, nonviolent and willing to suffer if necessary. This is a love that inflicts no harm but endures harm inflicted. It is a love that is indiscriminate and not constrained by tribal interests.
Yet these words of the Lord repeatedly have been blasphemously abused
especially around Memorial Day by people who celebrate the sacrifice of those who have died on battlefields while trying to kill enemies. I do not intend to demean those sacrifices. Members of my own family have been in war, my good father included. But the losses in war have nothing to do with the love to which Jesus refers. When Jesus speaks of a love that makes one willing to “lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” he is not speaking of a love that can lead one to bear arms. To the contrary, he
is speaking of a vulnerable, disarmed love like his.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to practice a nonconformist sort of love that has been conformed to the way of our Lord. This love arises from being “transformed by the renewal of you mind,” thereby learning what is truly “the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). Our love is to have distinctive Christ-shaped contours. It is to be both deeper and broader than that which is normally recognized as love in our world. It is more than a passion or even a commitment. The love we embody as followers of Jesus is like the love of the One who first loved us. It is only as we meditate upon that love that our own love can “overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight.”
Craig M. Watts is minister of Royal Palm Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Coral Springs, Florida and Co-Moderator of Disciples Peace Fellowship. He is author of the book Disciple of Peace: Alexander Campbell on Pacifism, Violence and the State (Indianapolis: Doulos Christou Press, 2005).