The thing about being an INFJ is random bumper stickers seen on my drive home will send me into deep philosophical musings.
“♥ God, ♥ People” the sticker on the truck ahead of me said. How funny someone feels the need to tell me and other drivers to do that, I thought. A non-believer wouldn’t see the use in loving a God who isn’t real to them, and as for believers – isn’t that the point to our belief?
But then I realized – it actually is given to us as a command: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5). We have to be commanded to love God? I can understand being commanded to love others (which I’ll get to in a moment), but why would God command us to love Him when we know His own character demonstrates He is for our good?
Of course, we also know our own hearts are not so steadfast, and, like the Israelites of Old Testament times, we easily divert our devotion to lesser pleasures of the moment. Material items, selfish goals, pure obstinacy… It’s like running after the piddling side quests in a game while the main quest waits an illogical amount of time for your attention.
In an RPG, when you input a command for a party member, they follow it exactly as you specify (barring status effects). While humans are not pixelated algorithms set to obey a designated pattern, we do tend to move either toward a more disciplined frame of life or away from it. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are followers of what has the strongest command over our choices.
Love is presented to us as an action that remains despite feelings, an action we are told to stick with in order to grow and mature in our faith and relationships. We are called to love God and his created people, even when we’d rather distract ourselves with shinier things or drag our feet when it’s hard.
Which brings me to the second part of that bumper sticker…
Do you know who will tell you to love people? Most people. From nearly any religion, any sect, any race. Anyone would tout that bumper sticker-offered challenge. We desire and see the need to be loved on a global scale. But how does it work out on human ability alone? We’re no doubt capable of great good and great charity. Facebook overflows with stories of kindness toward those in need – even to the smallest animals.
But love on individual terms can just as equally do harm. One group openly mocks and insults another group for not loving enough or in “the right way”. Between the hopeful videos shared on Facebook are memes trolling the opinions of others not deemed suitably tolerant/sympathetic/you name it.
I admit, my own sin is an action command leaning toward >Run when faced with the opportunity to love someone in a real and personal way. What would I say? What if there was nothing I could do for them? What if they reject me? My own love falls short when I rely solely on my power.
But Jesus did also command “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39), and he exemplified that in all its beautiful, difficult nuances. Truth and compassion are both necessities. When I read the Gospels, I marvel at how seamlessly Jesus blended the two.
I don’t believe love is a human invention. It isn’t something we exhibit with any amount of ease. But God gave us a love to practice and then share: He knew it was the necessary command which would progress and complete the quest.
As for my own journey, I’ve lately been drawn to books celebrating community – people who must live in close circles, interact daily, form bonds through or in spite of trying circumstances. The idea begins to appeal to me, though I know it won’t be so easy as these fictional stories play it out. Could these books and that truck’s bumper sticker be the Holy Spirit’s tug on the heart of a woman who spends far too much time in her own brain? Maybe it’s time I pursue some new action commands and take Love to a world that needs it.