There is a campaign that I’ve seen over the last few years – a slogan, a bumper sticker, a motto or whatever you’d call it. It’s become so ubiquitous that I’ve not been able to track down it’s source. Like many memes, it spread like wildfire through a forest of people looking for a good idea. It’s the pairing of two words on t shirts, bumper stickers, Bible covers and billboards, all proclaiming “LOVE WINS.”
The proponents of the campaign – pastors, bloggers, writers, leaders and such – are attempting to raise the water level of God awareness in their world as well as encouraging those in their sphere to live in a manner that is characterized by grace. It captures the imagination of their congregations and becomes a ruler of sorts by which they measure their plans, behaviors and motives.
I love it and I hate it.
I love it because it’s simple. Two words, four letters each. I love it because it’s hard to argue with (in the way that it’s hard to tightly grip a bar of soap). I love it because it’s getting people to think about how they respond to people around them and in that, genuinely inspires them to be better people.
I hate it because it’s only part of the story, and in our desire for simplicity we are serving up a digestible, bite sized morsel that people misinterpret as a whole meal. Later, when required to exert themselves to prove the point that love does win, they discover that they’re not as strong as they thought. They ate the morsel and they’re still hungry.
Yes, love wins, but to proclaim it begs the question ‘what is love?’.
Our culture has such a poor understanding of love that the bumper sticker might better be worded “Sentiment Wins”. Sentement works fine when the going is easy. We like things – we develop a certain sentiment towords them and we respond warmly.
Love, on the other hand, was made for difficulty. It was placed in our hearts for times of struggle. It was not made with a bumper sticker in mind, but a pair of brass knuckles. It is the most aggressive, sacrificial thing a human being can do. Ask a new mother about her love for her baby – the raw emotion that accompanies those hearts, full of passion and resolve, forged in the shared difficulty of birth make for a bond of love that never materializes any other way. It’s not just what she feels. It’s what she’ll die for.
Too often, we confuse love with like, and when we no longer like something or someone, sentiment shifts. Our emotions never have the staying power of our intellect, so our emotions shift. Suddenly, the message becomes “Love Quits.”
Love wins, but it’s not as simple as we make it.
John 15:12 starts a discourse on love. Jesus says “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you…”. It stirs our heart because our spirit resonates with God’s desire that we love one another deeply. We want to be known for our practice of Godly love to one another. Unfortunately, the ‘want to’ we have sometimes falls short of the process found in the next verse.
Greater love has no one than this, to lay down his life for his friends.
If Jesus is right about this – and I’m inclined to believe Him – then love wins, but someone’s always dying when it happens. They’re dying to their own desires, dying to their own fulfillment, and dying to what feels good for the sake of what’s right.
Romans 16:4 tells us “…we were buried with him through baptism into death, and just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in the newness of life..”
This walk of love that we propose means laying it all down for the sake of another…and then, yes, love wins after all.
Perhaps you’re thinking “OK, you’re right. But I just ordered 6,000 Love Wins stickers for my church. Any ideas?”
Yes. Use them. And leverage the appeal they have as an opportunity to really teach your tribe what it costs for love to win. Challenge them to move beyond the Jesus bumper sticker world, which is, after all, the bulk of your work, isn’t it?
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