Thursday, April 3, 2008

So What Is It Anyways?

But love. What is it? What are we talking about here?

I mean. I remember a Saturday Night Live skit from way back when electrons and the cathode ray tube were still being invented. In it, Steve Martin and Bill Murray play two tourists looking off camera.

The skit starts with one of them saying: “What the hell is that? [squints] What the hell is that? [chuckling to himself] What’s that danged thing doing here! How did that get here? What the hell is that? [squints] What the hell is that? How’d that danged deal get here? [turns off camera] Hey! Come on over here and look at this deal!”

It goes on from there. In a kind of a Saturday Night Live meets Waiting for Godot manner. One of the funniest skits I’ve ever seen. Falling down funny.

And it’s funny because so much of life is just like this. We are confronted by ideas and events and people and emotions and objects and situations that we have no idea how to understand. They seem like they were placed here by aliens. Space aliens with either malicious or comical intent.

Love is like that, I think. It’s one of those things we point to like a bunch of cockamamie tourists who are trying to make sense of it.

Last night in a home fellowship I go to, we were ostensibly talking about Exodus. But then we talked about children and what a tough time our semi-grown children are having. And then somehow we ended up talking about love and what it means. Somebody said, Well, first of all, it’s an emotion.

Emotion? Somebody else said. Emotion? How can love be an emotion?

After a polite silence. A very careful and studied silence. The first person said, Well. Isn’t it? I mean don’t we say to our wives or our husbands or our parents or our children, I love you?

But that’s not what it means in the Bible.

What do you mean?

Emotions come and go. They’re not stable.

John says God is love. How can love be an emotion, if it’s God? God isn’t an emotion.

Maybe John means that metaphorically.

What? What do you mean?

Maybe God is in particular the author of love.

He’s in particular the author of everything.

Doesn’t God expect us to act in a certain way?

What do you mean?

Doesn’t Jesus when he says to love God and love one another. Isn’t he more suggesting that we act a certain way rather than feel a certain way?

You mean commanding?


You mean that he is commanding us to act in a certain way?

What way is that?

I don’t know. Carefully, maybe.

Prayerfully, maybe.

Forgivingly and generously, maybe.

How about graciously?

How about courteously?

How about humbly?

How about reverently?

How about dependently?

So if love isn’t an emotion, is it indifferent? I mean. If we don’t feel a positive emotion toward someone. Or a negative emotion, for that matter. Are we indifferent?

Consider this. A husband and wife married for many years. Have grown children together. That sort of thing. Rich emotional life that has developed over the years. The husband forgets his wife’s birthday. She’s upset. Angry. Hurt. Does she love him when she’s feeling angry and hurt?

I kind of think of it like this. A song. In which love is the bass. The bass guitar line of the song. There are other instruments that carry most of the rhythm and melody. But the bass notes are the love that runs all through it.

You mean we might have all kinds of emotions through the song, including love.

Yeah, something like that.

Hey, are you a bass player?

Doesn’t saying that love isn’t an emotion sound like saying that you can have paint without color?


Well, you can have paint without any color, but what’s the point of a paint without color?

You mean house paint?

No. Painting paint.


Paint that you use to paint a picture.

Maybe there are several essential characteristics of love, and emotion is one of them.

But it isn’t the only one?


Or maybe love is first one thing and then another.

What do you mean?

Maybe love is first a decision, but then it’s an emotion.

Or maybe it’s an hypothesis first. And then if the hypothesis is confirmed, it then becomes a commitment.

I think love is behavior. It’s obedience.

Obedient behavior?

Or maybe it’s faithful behavior?

I think love is what the Holy Spirit does.

Or asks us to do.

Or does through us.

Or maybe is, in the first place.

In the first place?

In the beginning.

The beginning of what.

Of everything.


I don’t know. I may not be remembering everything correctly. But this is what I think I remember.

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