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An Essay about

by Ken Raggio

Written on Valentines Day

After a lifetime of preaching, pastoring and counseling,
I would like to share my personal observations about LOVE.

Much has been said about love, but if you search the horizon, you will discover that most of the things written about love are either pithy or cynical.

Society in general can be cruel and heartless toward real virtue of any kind. In the most popular venues, love is seldom dealt with with any degree of sobriety. Modern humor mocks marriage, husbands and wives, then glorifies every conceivable breech of virtue, such as sexual immorality, profane and obscene values.

Real love is a mystery to most people. 

Most people never realize the true potential or value of love, nor do they learn to practice the art of love. It is usually very poorly defined. People think they are in love, but they cannot explain it. There is a great deal of confusion and cross-referencing of the terms LOVE, ROMANCE, INFATUATION, AFFECTION, TENDERNESS and so forth.

Love may include romance, infatuation, affection and tenderness. But even if those elements are not present, it could still be love.

A lot of people will tell you that they are in love, or that they have been in love, but there is a huge disparity between one person's definition of love and another's.

Two of my favorite statements on love are:

  • Love is a CHOICE to do the HIGHEST GOOD for someone.
  • Love is the BOND of perfectness (Colossians 3:14):
           Hence, LOVE is the PERFECT GLUE.

Love is noble and idealistic. Love is the highest of all the virtues. God Himself is love. Paul classified faith, hope and love as the highest virtues, and concluded that love was the highest of the three.

Love is essential to a perfect relationship.

What most people never realize is that true love is not always romantic. Romance is different from love, even though ideally, they should occur together. Romance is the emotional component of love. Romance adds the sparkle in your eyes. Romance adds the perfume and the colors. Romance embellishes the scenery and swells the music. Romance is the gilding of love. Romance is gold leaf. It is ornamentation. Romance sometimes becomes a means unto itself. It even becomes a cheap substitute for love at times. Some people seem to desire the trappings and embellishments of romance in place of genuine relationships. By comparison, romance is superficial to love. Romance is skin deep. Love is heart deep. Romance requires things that love does not require. Romance requires gifts and surprises and lavish attention. Romance sometimes demands things that contradict love. Romance is offended when the gold-leaf wears off. Romance condemns love that is not eye-pleasing. Romance often injures and denigrates true love because love does not always appeal to romance's selfishness.

Love is for givers, not takers. 

Those who demand to be loved before they will love should not be surprised if no one gives them love. Genuine lovers live in a world of giving. The getters - the takers - the ones who expect to be loved first, live in a different world. We have a duty to love, but we have no guarantees that we will be loved. We have it in our power to love, but we have no power to force others to love us. It is folly to spend life demanding love from others. If we are true lovers, our entire mindset is in a giving mode. There is no place for bemoaning the ways others neglect us.

Love is fascinating inasmuch that it draws a person into an expression of caring and concern for another. An entirely selfish person cannot love. Anyone whose desires are only for self-satisfaction cannot manifest love. TRUE love will never encourage you to do things that God is not pleased with.

Anyone who, in a supposed act of love, encourages you to do things that are contrary to God's Word (or encourages you NOT to do things you know God desires you to do), is not loving you but destroying you.

Love requires the giving of ones' self to another. 

It involves an element of self-depletion, self-exhaustion. Love is empathic. It puts itself in someone else's shoes. Love seeks to understand. Love cares. It does not pre-judge. It does not pass sentences. Love does not jump to conclusions. Love does not throw down ultimatums. Love does not declare war on its object. Love is tender, it is kind, it is forgiving.

Love is tuning into another's sensitivities. Love senses another's strengths and weaknesses. It uses the other person's measuring stick. It suffers and rejoices on another's terms. Love seeks rapport. It seeks to interface with another at their level. It seeks to relate emotionally, intellectually, physically and spiritually. Love compromises whenever possible. Love sacrifices personal whims if they are incompatible with the one who is loved. Love abandons pursuits that hurt the one who is loved. Love will do without. Love will dress in the color that another chooses. Love bends. Love stretches. Love must sometimes keep silent. Love is a desire that someone will fare better than yourself. It is the willingness to spend yourself for the well-being of another. Love will pay a debt the other cannot pay. It will bail them out for the sake of survival. Love wants the other to survive even if it means death to self. Love will die so someone else can live.

Infatuation is sometimes mistaken for romance or love. 

Infatuation is an extravagant passion or attraction to someone. Infatuation may or may not do the best it can for its object. (An example of the downside of infatuation occurs when someone begins to stalk or threaten the one they are infatuated with.) Infatuation might just be physical passion. Passion is what you see in animal magnetism. Passion is driven by physical attraction, by chemistry, by hormones, if you will. Passion causes animals to mate, to bear offspring. Passion will make a buck tear down a fence to get to a doe. Extreme passion is sometimes the force behind date-rape and other kinds of physical abuse. 

Every healthy human will experience some kind of passion. Our physiology guarantees it. Every man and every woman manufactures chemicals in their bodies that attract the attention of other human beings. The forces of testosterone and estrogen and other pheromones create irresistible magnetism between humans. It is possible to be attracted to anyone at anytime where these hormonal forces are at work. It is the nature of every living creature to be attracted to those of its own species. This physical passion, however, should never be confused with love.

It is possible to feel passion for someone you do not love, and it is possible to love someone you do not feel passion for. One of the biggest mistakes a person can make is to get involved with another person on the basis of passion alone. If the component of love is absent in a relationship, devastating things can happen. Just because someone is a great lover in bed does not mean that they will be easy to live with at all. A very passionate person is still capable of unspeakable cruelties, thoughtless sayings or even hateful abandonment. Even though they may express wild passions for you on the spur of the moment, if there is no love there, you will surely be hurt by them. By the same measure, you will certainly hurt anyone else for whom you have passion, but no love. Stay away from passion that is not bounded by love.

Love is essential to the success of any relationship. 

It is the force that holds two people together while they sort out their differences. Love is the C-clamp and it is the glue. If you love, you will be forced to be patient while the glue dries. Love will not always hold things together, but if anything can, it will. Love is the last and best chance at sealing a relationship.

Love will expose you to rejection and hurts. 

Your attempts at loving someone will not always be appreciated or received kindly. Your motives may not be understood or believed. When you set forth to love someone, they may think you are acting out of ulterior motives. You may be accused of wrong doing or wrong motives. When you love you are your most vulnerable to hurt. Sharing your love is the most expensive thing you will ever do. It can either be the most rewarding effort or it can be the most devastating endeavor. Nobody is happier than a person in love. Nobody is sadder than one whose love has failed.

If you invest yourself in someone, and give them your very best, and they respond positively to your love, you will experience unspeakable gratification. If, however, you invest in someone, and give them your very best, and they do NOT respond positively, perhaps they do not respond at all, or they respond negatively, it is likely to be one of the most painful experiences of your life.

People who have failed at love often resist the notion of loving again. 

To the person who has been hurt, love is perceived as the source of their great pain. Rejection is a deadly monster that nobody wants to live with. Loving people sometimes become self-destructive when they feel their love is being spurned.

But if you will be a real lover, you must confront the risk of rejection with a belief that love will not always fail. Love may fail with one person, but it will succeed with another. If the rejection is coming from a spouse, then there must be a strong belief that love is still the answer and that persistent love will eventually conquer all. 

When one person devotedly gives unselfishly to another, if that effort is genuine and well-intended, it is virtually impossible that there will not be a positive result. If you persistently contribute to a person's well-being, the likelihood is that they will eventually become accustomed, if not addicted, to your positive contribution to their lives. If the one who is loved finally recognizes that you are only good for him or her, you have accomplished the real purpose of love. Love is the prerequisite to endearment.

Love can build a bridge across great divides. 

Love is more powerful than any other force, because love stands for the best interest. Love will only do good. Love will do no evil. Love is the most irresistible force known to humanity. Loving an adversary is like pouring fiery coals on their resistance. They must eventually respond in some way. Love does only good and thereby creates a debt of gratitude. If a person refuses your love, it may be that the reasons are irreparable. It may be that they have chosen the love of another over your love. People who are in love develop a symbiotic relationship eventually. Each draws life force from the other. There is a mutual support system that emerges. If a person is substantially different from you in their values and lifestyles, they may resist your efforts to love them for the simple reason that they do not want to be engaged with you. They do not want your values or your lifestyles imposing upon their own. In such a case, it is best to abandon the pursuit. Be not unequally yoked with a person of radically different values or lifestyles.

What is the purpose of love? Love is the desire to enhance another. God is love. God is the desire to improve the universe. He blesses all of creation. He builds, He strengthens, He helps - all the while He is being resisted, rejected and ignored. God loves us. That means He wants to do us good. If we reject Him, it is because we do not want His ways or His lifestyles. It is because we have deluded ourselves into believing that our way is better than His way. Unfortunately, there is no way to prosper outside the blessing of God. To reject God's love is to reject life.

If we do not handle love rightly, then everything else will be out of kilter. If our lives are not motivated by love, we are certain to become corrupted, contaminated and diseased by lesser forces. If we do not love our spouses, our children, our families, our fellowman, then we have given ourselves to their demise. The failure to love is a form of abandonment. It says I do not care how you turn out. It says your life is unimportant to me. It says I am selfish. I don't want to be involved in your well-being. God requires us to love every man, because in doing so, we become partners with God in the saving and redeeming of the human race. When we love our neighbors, we are allied with God in salvaging the human race. When we love our children, we are allied with God in the saving of our children. When we love our spouses, we are allied with God in the saving of our spouse.

When we do NOT love others, we place ourselves at odds with God. 

We are neglecting or destroying what God is trying to build up. We are ignoring a cause that is uppermost in the mind of God. Husbands should love their wives. Wives should love their husbands. Parents should love their children and children should love their parents. People who neglect their own under the guise of becoming benevolent or humanitarian toward the general public are failing to recognize that love must begin within the innermost circles of our lives. It is illogical to think that we can help society at large while we are neglecting our most fundamental responsibilities toward our own family and friends. 

If the circle of love always began at home, the ripple effect would be enormous. Every loving couple is an inspiration to other couples within their circle of influence. Every dysfunctional couple is a detriment to their circle of influence - whether it be a detriment to the children of a divorce, or broken family ties, or the impact on the community at large. It is foolish to think that we can show love in the public venue while neglecting love at home without getting caught in our hypocrisy. Everybody on your job may love your smiley face and your cheery ways, but if you are a monster at home, be sure your sins will find you out.

Do you love someone? We should all love one another. We love our families, our friends, our brothers and sisters in the church. How do we best love?

Love begins to be expressed when it is formulated in the heart. 

Love begins with a thought. Love looks at a subject and creates an interest. Love looks at a person and says, "I like that person, and I want to be good to him or her."

Love cannot function in an environment of prejudice. 

You cannot love someone for whom you feel antipathy or aversion or repugnance. You cannot help someone you refuse to understand. You cannot help someone you have judged unworthy. You cannot love someone whom you disdain for their appearance. You cannot love someone whom you dislike because of their upbringing. You cannot love someone you resist because of their lack of grooming. You cannot love someone you are jealous of, whether you are jealous of their looks, their financial status, their popularity with others, their education or social standing, or any other reason.

It is grossly unjust to limit your love to those with whom you get the best rapport. You must not limit yourself to loving only those who think like you, dress like you, act like you. You must love all people of all kinds in spite of whatever distastes you may experience.

What do you do when you love? When you love, you care. 

You show you care. You think caring thoughts. You commit yourself to caring. You refuse to stop caring even if they don't care if you care.

Love dwells where dislike would never go. Love penetrates hostile environments. Love reaches out. Love does favors that will never be repaid. Love shows appreciation for things that go unnoticed. Love runs errands. Love expects nothing in return. Love's reward is to see others prosper. Love seeks not its own, but the good of others. Love makes a man build up his wife. A loving man nourishes his wife, as a loving woman nourishes her husband.

Love doesn't condemn or show harshness. 

Love doesn't seek to destroy. Love is kind. Love is tender. Love accentuates the positive. Love is not hate. Love does not hate. Love doesn't put a microscope on your faults; it puts a microscope on your potential. Love forgives faults. Love sometimes turns a blind eye. Love allows space for improvement. Love tolerates a lot of things that would otherwise be intolerable. Love bears with people that nobody else would bear with. Love gives second chances. Love gives third and fourth chances. Love leaves the door unlocked and the porch light on. Love will meet a prodigal half-way. Love will give up its own bed. Love will celebrate a victory, even if it is a small one. Love wants it all to work out, and will spend everything to make it happen.

Love rejoices when others prosper. 

Love does not demand equal time. Love does not require equal pay. Love works for free if it has to. Love never gives up. Love clings to the ideal. Love persists through all adversity. Love believes in and hopes in things. Love tries really hard. To love is to be like Christ. Not to love is contrary to Christ. There is no greater love than to lay down your life for someone else. In your dying, they live. In your forfeiture, they win. In your passing they are sustained. In your deprivation, their needs are met. In your hunger, they are fed. In your want, they are filled. Love will stay when self-preservation would leave the room. Others' needs compel love to stay on the job, when otherwise you would quit.

Love compels a mother to cook dinner even though they complained about the last meal. Love compels a father to the job even though hostile forces are working against him. Love compels a preacher back to the pulpit even though his message has been rejected by 99 out of 100 people who have heard him preach.

You can be religious. You can go to church. You can sing in the choir. You can teach a Sunday School class. But if you don't live by love, you are a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. You can drive a nice car and live in a nice house, but if you don't love others, your life is a selfish disaster just waiting to happen.

But if you are a master at love, you will be happy even if life dishes you one trial after another. If you are a loving person - yes, if you are a LOVER - you are what God made you to be. He that loveth not, knoweth not God.

If God were only hate, He would have no faithful followers. 

If God did not love us, we would not have pled His cause through the centuries and millennia. It is the love of God toward us that has endeared Him to us. If He had not loved us while we were unlovable, we would have ignored him as soundly as we have all our other enemies. But God's love for us is the glue that holds us to Him.

Every one of us will eventually pass from this life. When we are gone, everything we have accumulated will be lost. We can't take houses, land, cars, furniture, collections, art, money, or anything else. Most of the things we have stored in our attics and garages will probably be thrown away. Our clothes will be given away. Nobody will listen to our CDs or read our books.

It won't take long until everything we ever were is gone and forgotten - with one exception. We will continue to live in the hearts of those we have loved. If we have loved God, we will find ourselves forever in His bosom. And if we have loved others, we will be remembered fondly forever by those we have loved.

If we have failed to love, we leave nothing behind.

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Ken Raggio

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