People throw around the word “love” as if everybody who uses it means the same thing. I once heard Clyde Francisco say that the word “love” has grown tired from having to carry so much weight over the years. Teenagers say “I love you” in the back seat of a car to someone they didn’t even know two hours before. An abusive father, full of alcoholic rage, says to his teenage son as he is beating him, “I am doing this because I love you.” Husbands and wives declare their love to one another and then misbehave. Evangelicals say it to non-Christians and then treat the person to whom they are witnessing with disrespect.
Somebody told me that if something felt like a punch in the stomach, it probably was. You can say, “I’m doing this for your own good,” but if you hurt me in the process, then I am going to be question whether you really love me. Probably, you are doing something that meets your needs more than mine.
Loving a person requires that we treat them with dignity and respect, that the “Lovee” be listened to in determining what are their needs and desires. For generations, white folks assumed that they knew best what their black neighbors needed. Historically, men made decisions on behalf of the women in their family. At worst, such attitudes created hostile and cruel environments. At best, such attitudes were patronizing.
Christians have not been exempt. We have too often assumed that “Christian knows best,” and organized our cultures in ways that made us happy, no matter how they affected others. We created Blue Laws that protected our Christian day of worship even though we ignored the Jewish Sabbath.
Listening to others is not something we do easily. Like a lot of other Christians, I have been so full of myself and my agendas that I have talked, talked, talked, pushed, pushed, pushed, argued, argued, argued, insisted, insisted, insisted, convinced, convinced, convinced, when a more loving thing to do would have been to shut up and listen. What are your needs? What do you think?
Long ago, a female friend who had been divorced was telling me the sad story of her failed marriage. She described one Valentine’s Day when she cooked her unappreciative husband an omelet in the shape of a heart. What a romantic gesture! And what a jerk she thought he was for not valuing her gift. As I later reflected on her story, I wondered if she had met her need or his. Maybe the way to that husband’s heart required the gift of a couple of fishing lures or some golf balls, not an omelet in the shape of a heart.
What do you think?