Love is Not the Absence of War
Updated: Jun 17, 2019
Who ever told you that love wouldn't hurt? Well, I'm here to dismiss that myth. Love hurts.
We've been sold a lie about what love is. Hollywood movies have made us think that love is a feeling and when the feeling is gone it's time to leave. When you want to leave and instead stay, that's exactly when love starts.
In a culture where it's hard to find people committed to anything, it's even harder to find people who truly exemplify love. My Bishop of the church I attend recently turned 72 and on his birthday he shared a few words honoring his wife of over 50 years.
He reminisced about the first time he saw this beautiful woman walking down the street and he told his friend he had to stop and find out who this woman was. His friend jokingly said, "That's jailbait man." But fifty years later they are more in love than ever. But he said beauty doesn't last so you better have something else that you admire about the person other than their looks.
Hair turns grey, knees start to creak, and Coca-Cola shapes eventually start to wrinkle and sag. "Now I just love holding her hand," he said. "I love her with her few extra pounds and she loves me with my balding head."
They've gone through the death of a daughter, being on welfare, foreclosures, repossession of a car, being sued and even infidelity - but their love for one another and God has conquered every battle that has warred itself against their marriage.
"There were a number of times we felt like calling it quits, but we made a commitment that we were going to stay together." And now fifty years later they are reaping the benefits of a love that never quit.
It is rare today to find people who weather the storms together. The minute trouble comes people head for the hills. Where are the soldiers that are willing to battle in the war? And best believe love is a war. We will not always agree with those we love and sometimes we may not even like them. Any parent who has raised a rebellious teenager knows this to be true. Or have you ever tried to console a colicky baby? There's nothing fun about that, but who said love would always be fun?
Anyone who has stayed in a marriage for a length of time knows that love comes with a price. To truly love, it will cost us something. It costs us our time, our patience, our money, our sacrifice and our understanding.
"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away." - I Corinthians 13:1-8
Out of all the great things we could do in life none are greater than loving. They once interviewed nurses who worked in hospice to ask them what were the things that people usually talked about on their death bed.
There was a recurring theme. Those dying never said they wished they had worked more hours at their job, or regretted not getting a promotion. They didn't brag about their accolades or awards they had received. It was always about those they had loved or wished they had loved better.
The dying talked about wishing they had spent more time with their children and wives instead of working. Men regretted not having loved their wives more deeply. Women talked about how much time they had wasted on being angry with a sister or family member - years wasted on trivial feuds.
Regrets always revolved around love lost.
This should be a reminder to us that love is something worth fighting for. It is the greatest treasure on earth and if you are lucky enough to find it you should cherish and guard it with everything that you have.
But don't be deceived into thinking that love will be without conflict. At times love is a war. When you love someone you fight for them. You fight to bring out the best in them and sometimes when you challenge those you love to be their best it can create conflict. Instead of love they see it as an attack on who they are, but if you truly love someone you want the best for them, and that means when you see them living beneath their potential you are willing to challenge them even if it means conflict.
But, in today's society people see disagreement and conflict as a road sign to exit the relationship. It's much like anything, once you quit something it becomes that much easier to quit the next time. It creates a pattern.
In fact, it's been proven that second and third marriages are more likely to end in divorce than first marriages. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that 67 percent of second marriages ended in divorce and 73 percent of third marriages ended in divorce.
You would think the second or third go around you would be more likely to make the marriage work, but instead it becomes easier to leave. With each broken relationship they are reinforcing a quitting mindset of "I don't have to take this from you." But, the truth of the matter is that no one is perfect and if we ever want to have long-term relationships whether it is friendships, business partners or marriage we all have to take stuff that we don't like from time to time.
It's called forgiveness. When Peter asked Jesus, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?" Jesus responded by saying "seventy times seven." (Matthew 18:21-22) If we leave every time someone does something that hurts us or offends us, eventually we cut off everyone in our lives, and all we have is a series of broken relationships. And then the cycle starts over with a new person until they do something we don't like, and we leave again.
I'm not suggesting it's not okay to have healthy boundaries with people, or that we should become a doormat for narcissists to use and abuse us, or stay in relationships with people who clearly don't love or value us.
However, I am saying that we need to understand what love is and what love isn't, and just because there is conflict it doesn't mean that it's not love. And just because there is an absence of conflict doesn't necessarily mean that it is love.
There are many people in the world who hate any type of conflict and they will smile in your face and agree with everything you say, but behind your back they will gossip, slander your name and throw you under the bus to hide their skeletons, to advance themselves, or for the slightest offense. You will never have to worry about having conflict with them, but best believe they don't love you.
Even Jesus was so disgusted by lukewarm people that he said, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other. So, because you are lukewarm - neither hot or cold - I am about to spit you out of my mouth." (Revelations 3:15-16)
When someone is lukewarm it means they are indifferent. They certainly aren't in conflict with one another. However, when you love someone what they do impacts you and hurt can turn to anger, which results in "warring" with one another.
In fact, the bible is full of stories of faithful legends who "warred" with God. Jacob was so frustrated with God that he wrestled with an angel and when the angel told him, "Let me go, for it is daybreak," Jacob responded by saying, "I will not let you go until you bless me." (Genesis 32:26)
Jeremiah said, "Cursed be the day I was born! May the day my mother bore me not be blessed!" (Jeremiah 20:14) Here was one of the greatest prophets to have ever lived and yet he was warring with God over why he was ever born. He is basically saying, if my life was going to be this miserable then why did you even create me? That's certainly not absent of conflict. It's very confrontational.
King David said, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest." (Psalm 22:1-2)
Even Jesus looked to His Father when He was on the cross and said, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:45) We know that God loved His son Jesus, and we know that these men in the bible loved God and He loved these men. But, in these moments all of these men, including Jesus, didn't feel loved.
They questioned it. They wrestled with it. They went to war with it. But they endured.
Love stands the test of time. It doesn't mean you will always agree on things. It doesn't mean you will always understand one another or like what they do. At times they may do things that are hurtful or annoying, but you endure through the hard times.
Love will confront you and tell you the truth even if it means you clash from time to time, but still it endures.
So, the next time you are getting ready to leave someone or cut them off over a feud, a disagreement or misunderstaning, just remember that real love is not the absence of war. Sometimes it is just the opposite - it is enduring in the midst of it.