Valentine’s Day. A bit like marmite, most people either love it or hate it. I’ve often opted for the Galentine’s Day version. Either way, it does get us thinking about love. If I were to ask you ‘what is love?’, I’m sure various ideas would come to mind.
Maybe physical attraction, intimacy, compatibility, or feelings of affection towards something or someone. You can’t turn on the radio without hearing a song about love. We love celebrity romance. Love is in movies, poems, books and TV shows.
Can true love exist?
As the film Love Actually puts it, it seems like ‘love really is all around’. But is it? Everyone has different – sometimes contrasting – ideas about love. We see what’s supposed to be love fall apart so many times, making us wonder, is there even such a thing as true love?
I believe there is. Not the love we see in movies or hear about on the radio, but the love that Jesus talked about and demonstrated to us. He said, ‘greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ (John 15:13). Jesus showed us this love by dying on the cross. He bore the punishment we deserved and bridged the gap between heaven and earth, by being fully God and fully human. Jesus made a way for us to come to the Father, forgiven for all that we’ve done. This is true love; a selfless, sacrificial, undeserved, and unconditional love.
A compassionate love
However, Jesus didn’t just demonstrate this love on the cross but throughout his time on earth. His ministry was rooted in active compassion for those excluded and overlooked. For those who experienced homelessness and a lack of resources. For those who faced discrimination due to their gender or ethnicity. He welcomed the tax collector and taught women; he touched the leper and healed the beggar.
This is love. Costly, messy, unconditional love. Yes, Jesus ultimately sacrificed himself, but he also sacrificed his time, reputation, and comfort for the people he encountered. Jesus is asking us to do the same, in all aspects of our life.
Love and justice intermingled.
Godly justice is rooted in love. A love that longs to see inequity addressed and systemic barriers removed. It’s not something we do to make us feel better about ourselves. Or a tick box exercise. We can’t outsource it to organisations. It’s a daily commitment to put the needs of others first. It’s costly, it’s sacrificial, and it’s not always Instagram-able and aesthetic. But it is a love that creates radical change.
Ephesians 5:2 says, ‘walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God’. God calls us to seek justice as we live a life of love. These are not two separate pathways but the same road.
If we are not walking in love, we will simply lose our way in our pursuit of justice.