“The problem with Christian culture is we think of love as a commodity. We use it like money…with love, we withheld affirmation from the people who did not agree with us, but we lavishly financed the ones who did…It is not a commodity. When we barter with it, we all lose. When the church does not love its enemies, it fuels their rage. It makes them hate us more.” P.218-219
I just finished reading the 18th chapter of Blue Like Jazz about how to really love people. It is amazing that I never looked at how I love people. Or how we love each other. We hold out our love for others to try to reach for, but we quickly pull it back if they offend us, or disagree with us, or hurt us, even if it may be unintentional. How often have I decided to make it known that I am upset with those I love or that they have hurt me, in the hopes that they will change? How often have I withheld love from them, thinking that will somehow get me what I want? And how often have I simply loved them for loving me and sometimes making mistakes? How often have I judged people for disagreeing with me? How often have I looked at people as “valuable” or “priceless” or worth “investing in?” How often have I looked at my love for people through the metaphor of money: that which must be earned and then given away carefully and on a strict budget?
Donald Miller says he had to train himself to stop looking at his love for others economically, but instead through the lens of a “free gift” or a “magnet” that, if he gave to people as if it were unending and unconditional, would pull them “from the mire and toward healing.” He says that he knew that was the right way to do it because that is how God does it. He says, “God has never withheld love to teach me a lesson.” And it’s so incredibly, indelibly true. Who am I to treat my love as a commodity that must be earned or paid for when my Creator loves me infinitely and unconditionally? Miller says that after he realized this, he was “free to love.” He was able to stop disciplining and judging and looking at people as if they were not worthy of his love. He says he could “treat everybody as though they were my best friend, as though they were rock stars or famous poets, as though they were amazing, and to me they became amazing.” I guess it sort of goes along with that phrase, “fake it until you make it.” If I stop training myself to treat my love as something I must give in order to get – if I stop treating it as something I can trade for goods – maybe I will learn how to really love people. Maybe I will finally realize that it is not even my love to give. Maybe I will understand that it is really God’s love to give – it just has to come from this confused wreck of a person. Because after all it was Him for first loved me – outside of all economic metaphors.