Monday, February 04, 2008

Love is a Four-Letter Word

"Love is patient, love is kind..."

Paul teaches us how to love. But, I now try to recall if I have been patient and kind to my ice cream. Because, of course, I love ice cream. How can I be kind to ice cream? If I did find a way, would it know? Would it care?

What's that you say? It's not the same?

Well, of course not exactly the same. I can be kind and patient with people whom I love. But I still love ice cream, don't I? It tastes so good. I've even been known to have a bowl of ice cream for supper. I admit I don't love all flavors equally. I'd even say some flavors I'm indifferent toward, but that's only because the flavors I do enjoy are readily available. I love butter pecan and mint chocolate chip. Yum!

And I love some of the people I know. I love talking with them, playing with them, just being around them. I seek them out to enjoy them – just like I do with ice cream.

But it is different. For my close friends, I have feelings I do not have for ice cream. I desire their good. I seek to serve them and please them. I am (at least sometimes) patient with them and kind to them. I don't do this with ice cream (God help me, I hope not!). Then, do I really love ice cream?

Well, let me check. Paul tells us what love is. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking..." That's quite enough. I obviously do none of these things with regard to ice cream. Since this is what love is, and I do not do this to ice cream, then it cannot be love that I do to ice cream!

I certainly enjoy ice cream. But if love means to be patient, kind, etc., then how can I talk about love for food, a movie, a song, an amusement park, the beach, or any number of other things I commonly say I love? These are all things I enjoy, which is well enough. And, there is nothing wrong with enjoying people, but have I limited my concept of loving people to merely enjoying them? Doesn't that mean I have distorted love into something entirely selfish and (if that weren't bad enough) entirely passive?

Have I become a casualty of selfishness and juvenile hyperbole? I imagine (pre)teen girls talking about some new item of clothing, "This dress is to die for!", or, "I just adore these shoes!"


I'm a silly man.

To enjoy those whom we love is most likely an indication of a healthy mind and healthy spirit. But to love that which we enjoy is to personify, or even idolize, that which has no life in it. And shouldn't our regard for those whose souls are eternal and who bear the image of God be so much greater than our regard for that which is temporary and soulless?

When you hear me say, "I love ice cream", then please remind me, "No, you don't."

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