When it comes to what love is, most Christians will quote I Corinthians 13 and especially verse 4 which says: “Love is patient, love is kind … . I love the way I Corinthians defines what love is: idealistic, romantic and full of hope! It is good to have that picture of love before us and aim for it.
As I have grown older, however, I have come to realise how practical love is. And, there is no passage that expresses the very down-to-earth but extremely edifying nature of love like Romans 12: 9-21!
Active verbs are used here to describe what love does: hate (evil), cling (to good), be devoted, honour one another, keep the spiritual fervour, be joyful and faithful, share, practise hospitality, bless, rejoice and mourn with others, live in harmony, be careful (to do right), live at peace and overcome evil with good!
All of these are active verbs, which means they require a subject to do it! If there is no subject to actually do the action, the verb becomes inactive; love isn’t realised! If we love our families, our friends, neighbours, country and so on, we must show it by acting out that love. When it is not actualized it isn’t love; it is a figment of your imagination but it isn’t true love!
The thing about active verbs is that not only does it have a subject (the doer of the verb), but it has an object or a recipient to receive the full impact of the verb. The verb is manifest in the relationship between the subject and the object or recipient. When that relationship exists, the verbs can be actualized! In other words, love can only be expressed when there is a relationship. You may say you are in a relationship, but if there is no action to manifest that love, something is wrong with that relationship, and it would be natural to doubt the existence of the relationship.
It is like the husband and father who spends so much of time with his work, that he has little or no time for his family. He can claim that he loves his family — he is working so hard for them — or worse still, say that is the price to pay (sacrifice) for “serving God”! Or, he would say that all the money from the long hours is demonstration of his love. But, is it? Notice that in the Romans passage there is no “give” as the verb to show love. There is “share” because it suggests a reciprocal relationship.
When love does not manifest in love acts (not just giving money), the relationship will be in doubt. If people are expected to remain in such a relationship, it, at best, is estranged — not how God loves.
God manifested His love through Jesus Christ. Jesus could have stayed in the heavens and done whatever He wanted to do from up there. He could have done it without coming down to Earth. But, we wouldn’t know He wants a relationship with us. It is because He came down and became like us and did things — and still does — for us that we know He is real, and we can relate with Him in love, which inspires faith and gives us hope. It is because He “does” that we know He loves us and we reciprocate by following Him. That relationship is assured and secure.
Relationships are the conduits of love. You can feel all the love in your heart and manifest them in whatever way you want to but the object of your love will never receive nor feel it when there is no relationship. If you are a priest/pastor/lover and you don’t have a relationship with as many members of your congregation or beloved, they will never feel loved — no matter how hard you try!
Love must be acted out in a relationship for it to be realised and reciprocated. So, if you want to love, just relate first, then do, and love will be evident for all to see!