I decided to do a quick Google search for the phrase “fall in love.” The search, unsurprisingly, yielded 2.5 billion (with a “b”) results.
While this is a light and largely accidental kind of research, my guess is that a deeper look would provide the following insight:
We are all falling in love with something.
Of course, how you define both “falling in” and “love” shapes this insight tremendously.
Is love a romantic intuition or a deep and abiding sense of attraction and value? Or is it both? What does it mean to fall in love? The word implies a process – a journey even – is that how love works? My tendency is to say “yes,” that love is the marathon and not the sprint.
Yet I can’t deny that instantaneous feeling – yes, feeling – of driven attraction towards a person, idea, or activity.
The thought behind all of this is that love is a drawing of our whole selves towards something. When you truly love, you give the entirety of your resources towards it.
We love with our minds.
Love is catalyzed and energized by our heart: our will, drives, and desires.
Our bodies are the vehicles for our engagement with love. As Richard Foster once said, our bodies are “power packs” by which we live the life we have been given.
The reason this discussion is relevant now is because of something Jesus said. In a discussion about laws and commandments, which are better rendered as “instruction” in light of the word torah. The Greek nomos tends to have a legal or penal character.
Torah, however, is more about how you live along the way than how to get on the way. If that strikes you as unacceptable, please keep in mind that Jewish Rabbis disagreed heavily on the key commandments of the torahbut rarely did those arguments end with a derogatory, “Well, you’re obviously not part of the covenant people.”
So, a well-educated scholar of the torah approaches Jesus and asks which commandment is the greatest. The synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) present varying accounts of this situation but ultimately the end result is the same:
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38, NRSV)
At the heart of all instruction, even the guidelines of God, is love.
Love is that which we all know disappoints as well as delights. Our track record with loving other people is filled with both rewarding intimacy and devastating exploitation of our vulnerability.
And yet we come back.
I believe Jesus has changed the discussion (or the expert modifies it, going by Luke’s account of the conversation) about law and love.
Our willingness to chase things with the pulse of love crushing through our veins is a marker of something larger. We are intuitively built to love. Though we have to learn to trust, communicate, and prioritize we do not have to learn how to love.
Children love first and then learn the lessons of disappointment later.
We talk about the work we do in terms like “passion” and “commitment.” These terms also apply both to the person we married and the golf game we seek to develop.
In any case, we come back time and again because we are born – and built – to love.
When Jesus readjusts the lenses through which we see the law, he is tapping into something incredibly human. I’m constantly surprised how little we value the real insights into humanity that ooze out of Jesus’ words and actions. His teaching lines up with the theology of the Kingdom of God and a renovated Messianic mission, sure.
But underneath it all, Jesus’ teaching is extremely human. It is “of the earth,” pulling from the word humus (“earth”) from which the word “human” springs through dark soil.
I wonder what would happen if we began to see Jesus’ teaching as more than a program for post-mortem advancement.
What if we saw something like the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) as a sonnet written on behalf of the Divine, a love song to humanity?
The serenade that calls our mind beyond what we think we can handle. We step into mystery, loving both what we know and what we can never pin down.
The greeting card falls open, and we read words of life such as “Don’t worry about what you will eat or wear” and “Forgive as you have been forgiven.” A spark is kindled in our heart and our will, and we no longer think about having to forgive and we see the privilege that only comes through love.
My daughter asks me to read to her. To play with her. Of course these feel like duties to a tired mind and body, but deep down we know that to climb down on the floor is an act of love.
If Jesus is simply offering us another program for religious advancement, then we have the privileged disadvantage of checking boxes until we check out entirely.
If, however, Jesus’ teaching is a canvas splashed with the primary colors of love? That is a different story. That is an invitation that we’ve been chasing for most of our lives.
We long to fall in love with something, remember.
Why not tumble headlong into a torah that is so human, so real, that it resonates throughout the physiognomy of creation?
What are you falling in love with? What is it doing to your mind, heart, and body? Perhaps this is an invitation to you to love what is more:
Filled with greater mystery.
Extensively more human.
The Jesus who took skin, sinew, and bone to its farthest point – and back again – leads us by the hand to something so surprisingly common.
Something we have always longed for: to love.