Sitting in Starbucks (i’m sorry if you get sick of reading that phrase, but it probably won’t change) my Spotify playlist turns to a growling metal song that screams, “Remove from me this deception that i called love,” and in reality it is a very helpful request.
In this day and age, everyone has an idea of love. In the past thirty minutes alone, Spotify has tried to convince me that 1) love is summed up as, “Baby don’t hurt me no more,” and 2) a single mother stripping to provide for the child she loves.
And given the wide chasm of understandings of the word “love” in our world, my prayer for the world is that God would remove this deception that we call love from our minds. Because in reality, every single human being on the earth gives “love a bad name.”
The one exception to this is the man described in 1 John 3:16. “By this we have known love: that He—for us—laid down his life; and we are indebted to lay down our lives for the brothers.” The He referenced in that verse is Jesus Christ; the one who came to earth 2,000 years ago, lived a perfect life, died on the cross—setting down His life for our lives—and rose again three days later to prove that He had defeated death for anyone who lives likewise.
This is love—dying to self and sacrificing until it hurts for the good of someone else. For the most part—even within the modern American church, love is defined much too closely with Haddaway’s song: we will love others as long as we don’t get hurt, and the only kind of love we will give is the kind that doesn’t hurt someone else.
The problem with this kind of love is that it strategically neglects many aspects of love demanded in Scripture that do hurt (to at least some extent): the church discipline process hurts (Matthew 18), giving monetarily should hurt or it’s not being done properly (2 Corinthians 8-9), carrying each others’ burdens hurts (and can be very dangerous spiritually, Galatians 6).
Unfortunately, love has become “shake a hand, embrace a neck, tell someone you’re glad to see them this week.” But this is not love. Love is sacrifice. Love is risking being mistreated or misunderstood because someone’s best interests are at stake. Love is thinking of others before oneself. If love is this hard for those who are members and friends in our churches, how in the world are we ever supposed to love our enemies rightly?
“The earthly fulfillment of the love command does not happen apart from the powers of the kingdom, nor will final entrance into the future kingdom mean that the conditions of entry are left behind. Life in the consummated kingdom will not therefore be essentially different from the action and attitude demanded by the love command. Only that person will enter the kingdom whose living has already reflected the life and power of the kingdom. That life and power are reflected most clearly when a man loves his enemy, for in doing this he acts most contrary to the natural pattern of human relations in this age.”
If love of enemies is a prerequisite to be a true believer according to Jesus, and if we can’t even rightly love our brothers- and sisters-in-Christ, then how in the world can we rightly refer to ourselves as believers in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
I for one am ready to see the church stop giving love a bad name. We are supposed to be the most loving group of people in society today—worldwide—but most people probably feel more loved by their favorite bartender or hair stylist than they do from the people in the churches in their area. The reason the church has largely lost its voice in society is because the world largely knows what the church is supposed to be like, but most churches fall so far short of this standard that the statement, “No church is perfect,” doesn’t even do it justice anymore.
It is my prayer in 2018 that God would remove from me all my false views of love. I want to get my ideas on love from Scripture alone, plead with God daily to be able to actively live it out in my life, and do my best to practice love in everyday life.
Love is even more clearly defined by God in 1 John 4:10. “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as the propitiation for our sins.”
This is how we are to love others as well. We can’t look to get anything out of it. We must love in spite of receiving anything. We must love knowing that we might never be repaid in this life. We must love with all that is in us, remembering that we are to act like God in this world (1 John 4:17). To do this we must act in love regardless of what others do to us first; this is how we can love our enemies like God loved His in sending Christ (cf. Romans 5:6-10).
This has been a lesson i have been learning over the past year and a half, and it has been infinitely valuable. I’m tired of giving love a bad name. I’m tired of thinking wrongly of love.
“God, remove from me this deception that gives love a bad name!”
Will you stand up with me in seeing this prayer become a reality?
Soli Deo Gloria
 As I Lay Dying, “Through Struggle,” on Shadows are Security (Metal Blade Records, 2005).
 Haddaway, “What is Love,” on The Album (Razor & Tie Recordings, 2011).
 Clean Bandit, “Rockabye,” on Rockabye – Single (Atlantic Records, 2017). As much as I am opposed to the sex industry, i find this to be a better example of love than the prior. This mother isn’t thinking about what is best for her, but rather solely thinking about her child. See note 7 for a theological tie in.
 Atreyu, “You Give Love a Bad Name,” on The Curse (Concord Bicycle Assets, LLC, 2004).
 Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations in this post are my own translation.
 John Piper, Love Your Enemies in The Collected Works of John Piper (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), I:148. Emphasis added.
 If the church was living rightly in this world and fulfilling the call of God on it, no single mother would ever have to turn to stripping to provide for her child. “This is pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father: to visit orphans and widows in their tribulations, to keep oneself unblemished from the world” (James 1:27). Strippers and their children are just about the clearest example of orphans and widows in our American culture.