Essential Qualities of Love: Part 1

Yesterday morning, at the breakfast table, I started what I hope will be an ongoing discussion with my family, about the nature of love. It wasn’t a planned discussion, or even one I’d thought about having. It just happened spontaneously as I listened to my children bicker and gripe about one another, as if they were sworn enemies. 

In all fairness, it wasn’t entirely their fault. They were only repeating some of the complaints I’ve made in the past about their table manners. Nevertheless, hearing them bicker about who was eating too loudly, or who was resting their elbows on the table, made me wonder if they truly loved one another, or if they just pretended to because they knew they were supposed to. That’s how our conversation began, with me asking whether they really loved each other.

Of course, at the time, I thought it was an easy question, that required only a simple affirmation; however, much to my surprise, instead of getting the quick responses I expected, I got silence and confused stares, as if my children were uncertain how to answer. In light of the early hour, I suppose I could have let them "off the hook" at that point, but instead, I decided to ask again, more slowly this time, with a bit of clarification.

“Do you really love one another? In other words, if one of your siblings were gone, would you miss them?” Of course, there is more to "loving" someone than missing them when they are gone. However, what we think of others when we are separated from them is a reasonable indicator, of how we actually feel about them. As a result, I was encouraged to hear each of my children say they would indeed miss one another if they were gone, because it meant, at least on a basic level, that they did truly love one another.

Of course, I never really doubted that they did, but even so, the question had to be asked, because their actions were out of sync with their words. That is to say, how they were treating one another was inconsistent with their claim to love one another; and, as you might imagine, they are not alone in that inconsistency.

On the contrary, in one way or another, all of us fail to demonstrate what we claim to feel for others. At times, all of us are unloving toward those we say we love. Whether we’re impatient with them, unkind to them, envious of them, irritable with them, critical of them, or what have you, God tells us that such actions are inconsistent with the way we claim to feel about one another. They are incompatible with his love.

In a gist, that’s really what I want my kids to know about love. I want them to understand that it’s not enough just to say we love someone. We must actually show it in our actions. In order for that to happen, need to understand what it means to love one another, and what it looks like to do so well.

To be continued…