What is love? It is defined in many ways. I have trouble understanding and at times expressing it. I am not a huggy; tell everyone ‘I love you’ type of person. I will accept hugs, just do not give them. The only love I do not have an issue expressing is to my wife, or did I?
I bought The Four Loves by C.S Lewis, devouring it in three days. He starts by taking love and dividing it into need-love and gift-love. Then he breaks it down into four flavors, affection, friendship, companionship, and romantic. The book ends with the pure gift-love called charity, where the other four are a combination of need/gift. Charity, he wrote, comes as natural and divine loves. The natural charity loves what someone finds lovable and divine charity does love what someone does not find lovable.
This was important to me because we are to ‘love our neighbor as we love ourselves’ and I didn’t understand what that meant exactly. I did not think I was doing a good job of it at all. I understood loving God with all that I had, it was easy when I considered how His divine charity (gift-love) loved unlovable me. My gratitude is shown by making Him first in my life. I get His love in blessings, my wife gives me all the loves, and my loneliness is a lacking in real friends I can see here in the state. I have many companions in Arkansas, no real friends that I see outside of my wife.
So, I was having a hard time with how to love others? As companions. Friends? Surely not in a romantic sense? I even prayed that I could love people like Jesus did. It was part of the reason I read the Gospel of Mark to see how He interacted with people. My prayer was answered and I did not realize it.
Selflessly or self-sacrificially loving the “unlovable” or people I did not even know in the form of divine gift-love was loving like Jesus. All the other loves grow from that. Example after example of ‘loving God’ and ‘loving my neighbor as myself’ happened without me realizing it until I wrote this.
After church, we sometimes eat with the deaf church, so I try to give my time in conversations, something I am not strong at in my shyness and introversion. It is a gift showing someone that they matter, something that a lonely or insecure person will treasure, at least I do. Another example was the Angel Tree kid we adopted. When we were kids my sister and I were ‘adopted’ at least once off it, and we show that same gift-love to another. The day I dropped off the toddler’s toys I stopped at the processor to pick up the deer I shot. I took the backstraps and twelve pounds of deer burger home, donating eighteen pounds to Hunters Feeding the Hungry. Divine charitable love, I do not know whom that feeds but care enough to give. I gave four pounds of what I took home to friends at work, natural gift-love in action.
Then there is the serving in church, showing the love for God as well as others. Even in loving others, we end up loving God according to Matthew 25: 35-40. In a three-day span it came up in different books, I was going through, kind of as if God was affirming it. I do not tell you these examples to make me look good, before I came back to Christ I was stingy with what I had, self-centered and it had to benefit me somehow. I would help someone once, and keep record of the debt. The level of generosity and altruism is God working on and through me now. My old nature would not allow it, but when I was saved, I became a new creature.
Loving others does not have to come with a fuzzy feeling as I thought. It is in something as simple as welcoming someone, companionship in the moment, or comforting them. It can be through meeting a need or simple generosity. In Mere Christianity, another of C.S Lewis’s books, he wrote that it is an act of will. Not a passive feeling but an active one that is kind to others in any degree. I understand that now. It is something that went from a burden to live up to for me to having a peace knowing I am doing it right through Christ who strengthens me.