The late Tina Turner’s 1984 Grammy-winning song with that title became the most successful song of its time despite the fact that she never liked it. Ten years later, however, it became the title of a film based on her life. The song re-lit her career at age 44.
Love. It’s a complex subject, isn’t it? As life began for us, when a family member told us they loved us, it was generally coupled with something we did well or volunteering for a cause our parents believed in. That makes it conditional; I do this, you say that. Simple, right? But we all know people who never left that level of love and they become dependent on that behavior.
When I met my boyfriend’s mother, a century ago, she told me he had six paper routes; that was meaningful to her because he did more than the average paper route kid. To me, it sounded insane but at 17, it felt odd to have those facts front-and-center. The only kind of love I was interested in then was the boyfriend-girlfriend kind. Our relationship had a special wrinkle because he was several years older, a leader of nearly everything in our high school. That kind of love is defined as choosing to care deeply for another BUT a relationship takes a lot more.
It’s “the more” of that definition that many don’t get. Love is more than the words. because real love and real connection demand affirmation of the other, acts of service for the other, and even acts of service done together for a cause, gifts, and unrestricted to tangible items but acts of kindness are gifts, quality time together, and physical touch.
As Christians, we are called to a love, bigger than our lived experience has provided. Bigger than the faith education we ever received. It’s Agape love. It is the highest form of love possible; it is selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional. It’s empathetic; it stretches to meet the good of one and many; it seeks always the best for another; it extends help to another with only good, intended outcomes; it is inclusive and invites everyone to experience. Having agape love demands we never dishonor another; it seeks nothing for itself and is not easily angered.
Pope Francis introduced agape love in his global travels shocking many traditionalists. He reaches out to other faiths, and cultures seeking first to understand their culture, customs, and mores and immersing himself with the people he visits.
In introducing human ecology, he defended the Amazonian people by looking at their world with consideration to the poor. Francis’ simple message is that we are all connected. What affects one of us has the potential to affect us all. Of prime concern to Francis was our blatant disrespect for the native Amazonians, the people, and the land. Their homes and lifestyle are being overtly destroyed to build a vacation paradise for the wealthy and provide resources for others while removing the rainforest to Third World people..
What our faith and Francis seek is to apply agape love to the world, all creation, and all people to diligently work toward the common good to co-create a new world where there is no room for evil.
For remaining skeptics, the research of neuroscientist Stephanie Ortigue could be a real wake-up call. Her book, Wired for Love, explains how love rewires the brain and she traces the neurological sensations that occur when people fall in love, like our moods being boosted. Have a skeptic visiting over the holidays? Present him/her with the book.
So “What’s love got to do with it?”, my answer is EVERYTHING!
“When I was young, I was dedicated to become a minister–my brothers and I were formally brought in front of the congregation in a dedication ceremony, where we were dedicated
to the future service of God.”