Love is more than an emotion. Love is sacrifice. It is a willingness to pay out of our own pockets the costs for the production of benefits that accrue, not to us, but to others. Love is picking up the tab for others. Love can be measured. To measure love, we need data from the answers to two questions. Whom do we love? How much are we willing to pay? Is the scope of our love narrow or broad? Whom do we include in and whom do we exclude from the scope of our love? Is the amount we are willing to pay small or large? Are we generous or parsimonious with our payment? Perfection in love is approached in two ways: 1) as we broaden the scope of our love and 2) as we increase the amount we are willing to pay.
Conventional wisdom tells us that the scope of love includes "the natural objects of one's bounty".
It is not unusual for a mother to pick up the tab for her child . A husband often picks up the tab for his wife and vice versa. But on rare occasions the scope of love expands beyond "the natural objects of one's bounty".
The good Samaritan is celebrated for expanding the scope of his love. He picked up the tab for a stranger in distress. The expansion of the scope of love by the good Samaritan was a breakthrough in the science of love. The good Samaritan raised the bar that marks the upper limit of love. When it was Jesus's turn, he raised the bar even higher.
Jesus addressed both the scope and the price of love. Jesus taught, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." . In his proclamation on the perfection of love, Jesus called for the payment of an extraordinarily steep price! Perfection in love requires the payment of our most precious possession - our very lives. We must pick up the tab for others even if the payment requires that which is most dear to us . Yet, in his proclamation on the perfection of love, Jesus limits the scope to friends. But don't be misled by the words. In Jesus's proclamation on the perfection of love, he was merely articulating the conventional wisdom on the upper limit of love. Jesus, however, planned to show us that the conventional wisdom was wrong. The conventional wisdom got the price right for the perfection of love but the scope wrong. Jesus was about to push the envelope. He was about to raise the bar that marks the upper limit of love far higher than the Good Samaritan did.
He would show us a love that is more radical - more extreme - than laying down one's life for our friends. How so? Jesus laid down his life for his enemies. Jesus picked up the tab for us, the very sinners who tortured and murdered him . Wow! How radical is such love! How extreme! Is no one, not even our enemies, excluded from the scope of our love? In the toxic soil of the Crucifixion, we tortured and killed him. He suffered and died. Yet, he did not stay dead and he did not stop loving us. He arose from the dead still alive and still in love with us. That he emerged from the dead still alive is the indisputable proof of his power. Nobody emerges from the dead. He did. That he emerged from the dead still in love with us is the indisputable proof that our conception of divinity as power is incomplete. Divinity is also love - a mysteriously intransigent, inexplicably persistent and radically stubborn love .
Jesus called for asymmetry in our response to evil not just to benefit our enemies who nail us to our crosses. Loving our enemies benefits us as well as them. Shakespeare hit the nail on the head in The Merchant Of Venice Act 4, Scene 1 when Portia said,
'The quality of mercy is not strain'd, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.' For your own sake, love your enemies. Do it for yourself not for them. Asymmetry in response to evil is the mark of a Christian. It is how a Christian protects himself from his crosses.
He hung from his Cross to teach us how to hang from ours. When you hang as Jesus hung, cling as Jesus clung, love as Jesus loved. Hold tight and refuse to let go of love, suffering's invincible foe. Love mitigates the harshness of our passage through the valley of tears. Jesus did not just deliver the technology of loving our way through the valley of tears. He was not just a delivery boy. He was the owner and inventor and promoter of the technology. His passion and death on the Cross were an advertisement promoting his technology of applying love to our crosses. He was so confident in the efficacy of the technology that he demonstrated that it works by using it himself. He donned the jetpack himself and flew to show us that we, too, can fly!
He led the way. Follow him.