Advent Season is here! I know that there a few churches that don’t follow the liturgical calendar, so people who are part of those churches don’t fully get Advent. Advent is simply an old word that means “coming.” Advent Season is the time leading up to Christmas, a time when we prepare our hearts for the coming of the Messiah. Each week we focus on a different Advent theme. This week let’s talk about love.
My problem with love is that the world gets it completely wrong. Love is often seen as sappy. It’s touchy-feely. But what happens when the feelings fade? We can’t base any reality on feelings because they come and go like the tide. You can wake up one morning and not “feel” love towards your spouse (especially if you’ve had a fight the night before). But the next week, you can feel like the luckiest person alive to have your spouse in your life. I go through periods of liking and not liking my own kids (a lot of it depends on their behavior)! But those feelings are not an appropriate way to determine my behavior. If feelings were the basis for our behavior, we would only be good when we feel positive things towards others. When the feelings fade, then we would bail on the relationship.
Jesus gives us a different understanding of love. It’s not some sappy, touchy-feely emotion. I don’t think that was Jesus’s personality at all. He was a hard-workin’ man. The Greek word in the Bible for Jesus’s occupation is tekton, which is simply translated “builder.” Looking at construction in the Ancient Near East, it’s highly likely that Jesus did a lot of work with stone. He’s not a soft man at all. He’s hard, toughened, with rough hands. He’s the man. He’s like John Shaft – this cat Jesus is a bad mother (shut yo’ mouth!). I’m just talkin’ about Jesus (oh, I can dig it!). When Jesus talks about love, it’s a very concrete, real thing that is about sacrifice – not about feelings.
I have loved you as the Father has loved Me. Abide in My love. Follow My example in obeying the Father’s commandments and receiving His love. If you obey My commandments, you will stay in My love. I want you to know the delight I experience, to find ultimate satisfaction, which is why I am telling you all of this. My commandment to you is this: love others as I have loved you. There is no greater way to love than to give your life for your friends. (John 15:9-13)
Love isn’t weak and soft—it’s tough as nails and enduring. The greatest expression of love is self-sacrifice. This is heroism at its finest, and we understand that. Our art is FILLED with examples of heroic sacrifice as a symbol of genuine love.
This kind of Love is what Jesus is talking about.
Real love says, “I got your back.”
Real love says, “You’re not fighting alone.”
Real love says, “I will jump on the grenade if it means you survive.”
THIS is how we kick off Advent—with this kind of raw, powerful, action-based discussion of love. Jesus came to give us this kind of love. This is EXACTLY what the apostle Paul was trying to tell the church in Rome:
For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
We did nothing to deserve God’s love. We didn’t earn it. But God showed the depth of his love by self-sacrifice—even when we were broken and unworthy. Jesus was the kind of guy to jump on the grenade for us so that we could carry on in the fight.
But it doesn’t end there. The real question comes to our response. Now that we have received this kind of love, how will we take it to the world around us? As believers called by his name, we need to be examples of love in this world. Regardless of feelings, which are transitory, we need to be people of love—people who are known to be self-sacrificial for the benefit of those around us.
Love is not my feelings. Love is concrete behavior. Love is Spock sacrificing his own life while telling Kirk, “Live long and prosper.” This is how God treated us. Now let’s be those kind of people to the world.