I Choose You
By Anthony Casperson
With red hearts, roses, and boxes of chocolate being all over the place recently, it’s difficult not to be thinking about love during this time of the year. Though I will admit it did take me until this week to realize what commercial holiday has just passed. (Being single will do that to you.)
So, love has been on my mind a bit lately. And I’m not just talking about the romantic type of love, but love in a broader sense. Love in a godly sense. Love in a sense that involves more than just the relationship of a significant other, but in all relationships: family, friends, and romantic.
In theological circles, much has been discussed about the four words for “love” in Greek. There’s a word for the love one has for family. One of love for a friend. There is a romantic/physical type of love (though that one doesn’t occur in the New Testament). And then there’s the one that usually is set for last: agape. (You have to italicize it so that nobody thinks your talking about standing in awe with your mouth open.)
And in many a discussion, there is this dichotomy between the first three words for love and the last word. The first three are conditional types of love and the last one is unconditional. The first three have the idea of “I love you because…” And the last one has the idea of “I love you in spite of…”
This is then when we tend to either start getting into the theoretical understanding of love, or the time when we start to talk about the type of love that God has for sinners (all of us). And while the latter really has benefits, we often forget to push this to our relationships with other people. And when we do, it’s typically only to a romantic relationship.
But there’s more, a lot more, to an unconditional, god-like, “love in spite of…” type of love than just in romance. We can show this type of love in every type of relationship with another person.
Let me give one of my favorite examples. In one of early seasons of Pokemon, something happened to Pikachu that caused him to attack everything. In his feral state, even Pikachu’s trainer and best friend Ash wasn’t safe from the attacks.
But Ash wanted to help his friend very much. Lightning bolts shocking Ash as he drew near, the trainer got right up to Pikachu. He held the pokemon. He hugged him. Convulsing from the shock, Ash could have died. But he didn’t let go because he loved Pikachu. And ultimately, the love that Ash showed his buddy broke through the madness that had overtaken the little guy.
That’s love. To care for someone so much, to choose their well-being over your own, to lay down your life for someone else.
In John 15:13, Jesus says that there’s no greater love that one can show than to lay down their life for their friends. The verse before that shows that this is Jesus’ hope for the Apostles, his closest followers. But it also translates to all of his followers. We are to be agents of self-sacrifice. A people who choose every day to lay down our lives in spite of the fact that we will be made fun of, hated, misunderstood, and so much more.
That’s a pretty big calling there. But maybe we can start small. Choose to show this type of love to someone you already know who’s difficult to love. You’ll probably get shocked in the process, but you never know exactly what it’ll take to calm the lightning.