by Dedzidi Ladzekpo
PART 1 – Love Includes
My time here at Cornell has radicalized my idea of love. No longer is love a passive word, all about romance or infatuation. Love is and has always been active, because it truly engages me and challenges me not only as the recipient but as the giver. God has been so gracious to teach me a few important concepts about what love is through who He is and who I am as a Christian on this campus. Here are three reasons why love is active:
One of the first lessons I learned about love is that it includes. My picture of love had been incredibly distorted by teenage movies that portrayed it as something only between two people. And since I wasn’t with someone else, it was something I couldn’t have.
But love is for more than your special someone. Love is meant to encourage others in life, and, most importantly, in their walk with God. The commandments found in Matthew 22:37-40 are all about love, that is first, loving the Lord, and second, loving others, not just one “other”. In the first and greatest, we are called to love God “with all [our] heart and with all [our] soul and with all [our] mind.” (Matthew 22:37). It’s important to note that this message wasn’t new to Jesus’ Jewish audience. These words can be found in Deuteronomy 6 in Moses’ exhortation to the Israelites. For us, this command is found not only in the words of Christ but is weaved into the epistles, like in 1 John. But, oh, how easily is it forgotten because of our sin and how easily we are drawn away from truths.
Even when we say we love the Lord our God, we must recognize that the way such love is demonstrated is in our actions. We can praise the Lord on Sunday, walk the Christian walk, and talk the appropriate talk, sure! However, do we let our love of God truly characterize our actions toward others throughout the week? This question is the reason why 1 Corinthians 13 was written. The church at Corinth was embroiled against one another because of a prevailing superiority complex of certain spiritual gifts. Paul writes because they failed to recognize that all gifts from the Holy Spirit, no matter what their perceived superiority may be, were given so that the church could be blessed. Such gifts should be displayed not in spite, but in the great God-given understanding of love that should characterize believers.
When we rest on this Biblical foundation, we find that love always involves more than just a plus one. It’s our responsibility as Christians to live in such a way that demonstrates that there is more to love than what our media might say.
I still vividly remember an experience from February of my freshman year of high school. On a retreat with my Christian Club, not really knowing anyone, I just went through the right Christian motions as I had for all retreats with the wrong desire of just wanting to go home. But that changed. One evening, these people prayed for me and my growth in the Lord without being compelled by obligation. They didn’t know me well, but their prayers and their unexpected love that encouraged me were just one piece of my journey that got me here today. Although this time may not be remembered by all, it definitely taught me that love manifests itself in a community of believers whose minds and lives are centered on God, what He has done, and what He will do.
Yet, this lesson is something that still needs to be renewed in my heart daily. When I feel alone, I have to remember than the love that we all experience was not selective, was not choosy, but it was inclusive and calculated so that more than just one person could feel it. This kind of love informs our living, not only in how we think about God, but how we think about others in light of His work on our behalf through the death and resurrection of His Son. This love was not reserved for those who lived when Christ did, but it’s a transcendent love we feel today. Let it also be a love we can’t help but share.
All Bible references are taken from the English Standard Version.
This is the first part of a three part series by Dedzidi Ladzekpo.