During the hippie movement of the 1970’s, a very popular phrase, seen plastered all over everything from guitars to VW Buses, was the word “Love.” It makes sense, of course, if you believe the Beatles when they said “All you need is love.” It is a pretty good rallying point. What kind of person could be opposed to love?
But while the word was proudly displayed in bright, vibrant colors, the exact meaning was left very vague. All too often the word “love” was reduced to mean something more like “niceness” or, even worse, just plain lust. While it is probably good to be nice to people, I sincerely doubt that “niceness” [by itself] will help to lead us any closer to solving the world’s problems. This shallow but appealing definition of “loving people” would have you believe that the definition of love is being completely accepting towards somebody, even going so far as to accept destructive behavior on their part rather than do something mean and unkind, like say point out reality to help them. Lust, in its many forms, has already shown itself to be one of the root causes of evil in the world. Viewing others as objects to be manipulated and controlled in order to satisfy a selfish desire always has catastrophic results for all involved, but it can be surprisingly easy to forget how to tell when we are lusting. It is no wonder, then, that the Hippies’ Revolution of Love had very little effect on the world around them (besides leaving behind some really great music and some comically entertaining fashion trends).
Despite this, I still believe that the Beatles may have hit closer to the truth than even they realized when they said “All you need is love.” Love really is the only thing needed to fix the problems in the world around us, but only if we truly understand the nature of Love.
Love is not the desire to be with someone, it is not attraction to someone, and it is not the willingness to do anything to win that person over for yourself. Despite what many classic romance movies might have you believe, this is often nothing more than lust, something which is the exact opposite of love. Love is not getting along with people either. While this is desirable, it can become appeasement and blind acceptance, both of which are ways of avoiding realities.
When put into its simplest, most basic meaning, love is the desire for another’s well being. Expanding on this cornerstone definition, it can be seen that pure love is the willingness to do what is best for another person, even if it is not what we want ourselves. This means that if we truly love someone, we give that love without thinking we are entitled to a return of their affection, and it means that if we really care about somebody we will not make truth and goodness casualties by backing down from a necessary confrontation in favor of pleasantries.
In Christ we can see the perfect example of this. Not only did Christ love us enough to die for us, but he loved us so much he was willing to suffer the hate, rejection, and abandonment of the very same people he was enduring it for! He gave his love while asking for none in return.
When I began writing this, I had not realized the coincidence in the timing and the fact that I would be following up the celebrations of Valentine’s Day, the day which is supposed to celebrate love. If I had realized this earlier, I might have rushed to try to finish writing it before the holiday. Unfortunately I often overlook Valentine’s Day, something which is actually quite telling. I can’t help but notice the irony in the fact that the common misunderstanding of the meaning of love as caused the holiday to become something more like a celebration of Eros, a God worshiped by the same empire that put St. Valentinus to death. This degradation of the holiday has turned it into something that is at times almost comical. The message of sacrificial love is lost underneath a flood of teddy bears and paper hearts. It is little wonder that cynics mock the power of love when it is represented like this. The truth is that real love is powerful, more powerful than any army or any philosophy that has ever been, is now, or ever will be. Those who doubt this need only be reminded that this love, real love, is not a fat naked baby with a cartoon bow and arrow, it is a man beaten bloody on a cross.
Jesus showed us real and true love when he accepted the abuse of his tormenters and used that very same suffering to pay for their sins, and in so doing he changed the face of the Earth forever. Christianity spread around the world not through force of arms or arguments, but through the self giving love of those who desired to follow in Christ’s footsteps. Using nothing but love, Christianity has built up an impressive list of defeated empires and tyrants, has improved the lives of people all around the globe, and has changed the way people interact with each other forever. Nothing before and nothing since has come close to achieving this level of change. In this Christ succeeded where the Hippies failed; He truly achieved a worldwide revolution of love, nearly two thousand years before they began their attempt. It turns out love really is all we needed.Tags » hippies, love, sacrifice, valentine's day