Have you ever heard the phrase, "I love you like a friend"? For any of us who have been in the dating world for any length of time, we've likely heard or received that phrase. Whether giver or receiver, it's always an uncomfortable and awkward conversation to have.
Why is it so uncomfortable?
I'm sure the answer to that question is as complicated as whatever relationship created the need for the conversation in the first place, but simply, I think it's because it's a phrase that qualifies love. If you're the one saying it, you are trying to communicate to the other person that, "I am fond of you, but not in the way you had hoped". If you're on the receiving end, you are probably receiving a tough blow that signals the end of hope in the relationship.
Is qualified love really love?
When we qualify love, aren't we really saying, "I like you, but not that much"?
Now love, for a Christian, is something that is commanded. What does that mean in practice? My friend, Rachael, wrote an excellent blog on that topic recently. We don't fully understand love, and I'm not sure we will this side of Heaven. Loving well is hard. Loving like Jesus seems impossible sometimes. But, it's what we're called to do as Christians.
So, when I love someone because it's what is commanded of me, how does that make the receiver of that love feel? Have you ever been "loved" out of obligation? Did you feel loved? Have you ever had to "say you're sorry" to a brother or sister because your parents told you to? Did you mean that apology?
Loving one another, as brothers and sisters in Christ, or loving the world as He loved the world means so much more than the words on the paper. Jesus didn't love with some rote affection commanded by the Father. He loved us with everything He had. He gave Himself away. He took abuse and ridicule and rejection and kept right on loving. There was unfathomable depth to His words when He said, "I love you".
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
I John 4:7-12
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
And so, that is how we are to love one another. Whew! That's tough! They will know we are His disciples by our love.
Forgive me, Lord for all of the times I've failed, I know it has been often. Help me to love with an unqualfied love, not out of compulsion but because I am filled with Your compassion.