Of all the longings of the human soul, the desire for perfect love is perhaps the most powerful. To be loved – unconditionally, perfectly, without fail or question – is the yearning that simmers deep in the human heart, and drives virtually everything we do, every choice we make. Somehow, deep inside, we KNOW that we should be the object of perfect love, and so we go on the life-long search for “The One” who will love us in the way we ought to be loved.

There is a short passage in the Bible (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a) that gives the characteristics of this love that we innately know is there:

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends."

On top of that, Jesus adds His version of perfect love:

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13

If you’ve spent any time at all in the context of Christian community, you’ve probably heard teaching about these passages. Most of the time that teaching is focused on how we should love like this toward other people. For me, that focus has always been discouraging, because I know myself too well. I’m simply not going to love like that with any kind of consistency, period, end of sentence. And what’s more, I have reasons – good ones! – for falling short of that standard. And most of those reasons have to do with short-comings in the people I’m supposed to love. The reasoning goes like this: “If they were more loving toward me, I would ….” 

The dilemma is that we all know that we should be loved perfectly, and we all have reasons why we don’t express love perfectly toward others. So we collide with each other, fully loaded with expectations of being loved perfectly, but knowing that we ourselves can’t meet the challenge. The inevitable result is, again, disappointment, hurt, and eventually disillusionment with the other party. Sooner or later the temptation arises to look elsewhere, because I’ve either gotten involved with the wrong person, or the wrong church, or the wrong job, or whatever.

Here’s the core issue: we’ve set our sights too low. These Scripture passages are talking about God’s kind of love, the perfect love that is His fundamental attribute, and that has been expressed toward us in the Person of Jesus. No one else can love like He does, no one else can meet the ultimate longing for love that boils in my deepest soul. No one else was ever intended to fulfill that yearning.

Perfect love. We know it should be there. We know from experience that no human relationship can meet the standard. We can keep looking to the next relationship or the next situation, or we can fix our gaze on Jesus. There is no other choice. 

More on this next time.
Gary Wiens

Gary Wiens, 2/2/2018