The title might have triggered memories of Saturday Night Live. If it did, I hope you enjoyed the laugh! But, truly, what is love? Too often I seem to misplace good-feeling emotions for what love really is, and when I do the world starts to look different. When we think 'love' is simply something we feel - like things that make us feel good or comfort or pleasure - what happens when we say "I love you" or "Jesus loves you?"
With that in mind, saying "I love you" or "God loves you" is communicating "God makes you feel good" or "You won't have suffering and pain with God."
So what happens when you look around and see suffering and pain? What happens when you lose your job? Or, a sudden death rips through your family? Or, your mom is addicted to crack cocaine? Or, your dad is in jail? If your understanding of love is feelings of pleasure and comfort, and your life feels really bad, then deep down I don't think you want a God that loves you like that. "God loves you" isn't good news when you hear "God makes you feel good" and your life feels really bad.
Well, love isn't simply something you feel (although love does cause emotions)! Love is different, and our volunteers, staff, and partners are redefining 'love' every day. At Village Oaks and Willow Pond, groups of volunteers come each weekday to love people unconditionally and with consistency, showing grace, patience and a willingness to listen, and ultimately communicating that each person has value, worth and dignity.
When you do that, you are defining 'love' for what it really is. And in that environment, when Jesus' love is shared, there is good news being offered: "I choose you, I value you, I like you, I'm not going to quit on you!" Jesus' love is different.
Brennan Manning understood this well, and articulated this far better than I am able:
"Do you believe that the God of Jesus loves you beyond worthiness and unworthiness, beyond fidelity and infidelity—that he loves you in the morning sun and in the evening rain—that he loves you when your intellect denies it, your emotions refuse it, your whole being rejects it. Do you believe that God loves without condition or reservation and loves you this moment as you are and not as you should be."
What a love! It is a love that always wants the best for you, will walk with you as you fail and succeed to be the best version of yourself, and won't quit on you. With that love, we are able to see the world properly.
Thanks to so many of you for helping to re-present love for what it really is and to many more who make it possible!
Will Dowell | Executive Director