“Love Hurts.” The song is right.

love hurts

Some fools rave of happiness 
Blissfulness togetherness
Some fools fool themselves I guess, 
But they’re not fooling me

Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, 1960

Love hurts NazarethWe were discussing the subject of love over lunch.

“When you hear people talking about love,” I began, “What is their focus?”

“It’s always the same,” my young college friend responded, “Love is the answer to all the pain and problems of the world. Cultural, political, personal issues would disappear if we would just love each other.”

love hurtsHow do folks define the ‘love’ that will end all that pain, all those problems,” I questioned.

The definition does not change much,” he looked off in the distance remembering conversations.

“Words like ‘affection,’ ‘attachment,’ ‘agreement,’ or ‘emotion’ are always part of the dialogue,” he looked back at me. “But the emphasis is always focused on self.

Self-logo.svg“It sounds very much like ‘I,’ ‘me,’ and ‘my’ are the subjects of what the culture thinks of love,” I pondered aloud.

“Folks normally think of love as it affects themselves,” he affirmed, “Any discussion begins with the assumption ‘How does this affect me?’ or ‘What will I get out of it?’”

Good_Samaritan_(Watts)“So people don’t begin with unconditional acceptance of others?” I wrinkled my brow.

“Oh no!” his exclamation was a fervent reply. “That would make people accept those with whom they disagree!”

“So statements like

“Love your enemies”

“Love God, love others”

“Til death do us part”

Do not seem to fit into the equation.”

“Right,” my young friend agreed, “No one wants to appear weak.”

Herter_-_In_the_name_of_mercy_give“So if I’m properly understanding the issues,” I wondered aloud, “People who accept the cultural norms do not see love as unconditional, sacrificial, or others-centered. Even intimate relationships are evaluated on terms set by the individual. I can be in-and-out of love depending on my own standards. Love operates from a position of strength. If I believe you or your beliefs are wrong, you cannot be loved. Toleration works when we agree but I defame you if we disagree.”

“Sounds about right,” the collegiate agreed, “That’s what I see around campus.”

discomfortThe Christian cannot live based on the cultural definition,” I posited. “If we are afraid of rejection we will not show love’s ideal. But if we are willing to question the assumptions and definitions of the culture we can be counter-cultural. By accepting the position of weakness—I love you no matter if you love me or agree with me—we can begin a different conversation. Love assumes we will be uncomfortable.”

Love assumes discomfort. I had not thought about love that way before,” he said. “Love means having no reservations. Love demands we be ‘all in’. I can’t wait to have this discussion with others!”

September 2016Dr. Mark Eckel is President of The Comenius Institute and has discussions like this one with numerous students each week.

Picture credits: Wikipedia

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  1. Well said!
    1 Corinthians 13:4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

  2. True love is always others-centered. It is never self-centered.

    People often talk about Jesus’ teaching, to “love thy neighbor”. But Jesus actually takes it a step far further, “love your enemies” (Matt. 5:44). Yes, even our enemies. And there is no teacher better than the LORD. He taught us what it means to love, and how to love–even our enemies. He demonstrated this love when He died on the cross for His enemies (Rom. 5:8). He did it, and by God’s Spirit we, too, can do it. But it requires the self-crucifixion of our own sinful desires and full submission to the will of the LORD and His desire for our hearts.

    When John says that God is love (1 Jn. 4:8), he is talking about this love, and his point is not to make people feel warm and gushy inside (even though it does), but to demonstrate that those who know God love as God loves. And this love can color all other kinds of love. And, in fact, no other kind of love is complete without it. What is romantic love, if it is not ultimately founded on selflessness, but a selfish indulgence, a kind of tame hedonism? Or perhaps, not so tame…

    Thank you for this post, Dr. Eckel. It was a pleasure to read, and I enjoy the idea of true love, Godly love, being “uncomfortable”. Because it is. Our sinful flesh is self-loving, not others-loving. To do what is Godly is often uncomfortable. But it is worth it.

    Our LORD is from everlasting to everlasting, worthy to be praised and adored forever and ever. Amen.

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