BRADY COLUMN: Love and cheap shots

Published 9:30 am Saturday, March 25, 2023

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In our time the word “love” and its meaning have come in for a number of cheap shots. We pay a kind of lip service to the whole idea of love, but everybody knows you can’t take it too seriously.  For Jesus, however difficult it is, he knows that love is not simply one virtue among many others.  For him, love is actually the foundation, the basic yardstick for all norms of how we are to behave and act toward one another.  And his example of costly love is the model of how we are to live.

First, genuine love knows its source, always relates to it and is not concerned with running out of power!  Jurgen Moltman, noted theologian, stated, “Our capacity to love is always born out of the experience of being loved.”  G.K. Chesterton, of journalism fame, was one of the first people to notice the grown-up values of fairy tales.  Fairy tales show us how to live wisely. They magnify virtue. They extol courage.  Chesterton’s most treasured fable was Beauty and the Beast. And the chief lesson of that story, he said was this: “Unlovely things must be deeply loved before they become loveable!”  Now, in an earlier story than this — only this one was not a fairy tale — taught us exactly that. “While we were yet “unlovely things” Christ died for us.” And to be instruments of genuine love, we must realize that we are deeply loved.

Second, genuine love is not concerned about who receives it!  For this kind of love knows no limits and is for everyone. Genuine love is a kind of “inspite of” love. It loves in spite of betrayal, rejection, disappointment, badness or anything else. 

It loves, period.  Harry Emerson Fosdick pointed out that no one treated Abraham Lincoln with more contempt than Stanton.  He called him “a low cunning clown.” He nicknamed him “the original gorilla.” Lincoln said nothing. He even made Stanton his War Minister because Stanton was the best man for the job. Lincoln treated Stanton with every courtesy.  The years wore on. The night came when the assassin’s bullet murdered Lincoln at Ford’s Theater.  In the little room to which the President’s body was taken there stood that same Stanton.  Looking down on the silent face of Lincoln in all its ruggedness, Stanton said through his tears, “There lies the greatest ruler of man the world has ever seen.” Genuine love had won the day.

Third, genuine love is not concerned with how much it cost!  Jesus loved sacrificially, and he expects us to do the same!  Therefore, we love people close by, tangibly, forgiving them, identifying with them and by doing justice-without concern for the cost.

In closing, it won’t do just to say, “Learn to love; learn to love, learn to love.”  By ourselves, we simply can’t genuinely love others.  You see, there’s always the unloveable person to deal with. But genuine love is always possible through God’s grace extended to us and God’s grace extended to others through us.