Pop threw up his hands in disgust, prompted by a movie release advertisement that evening, “This is why young people can’t get married.”
Obviously, it’s not Colin Farrell’s fault specifically. But as our conversation blossomed, I found myself agreeing that the false romantic promises carried in these innocuous trailers bespeak a deeper culprit.
We want love to be perfect. And we want our relationships to be perfect. And we will know that we’ve found “the one” when everything is just perfect.
Love Me For Me
These expectations we often foster in our hearts whisper a promise of unconditional love that can only be satisfied in Christ Jesus.
A leading man whispering sweet nothings in my ear will only temporarily calm my insecurities.
I am irrevocably broken. And my brokenness nicks everyone around me on a consistent basis. I was born in sin, shaped in iniquity (Psalm 51:5). Every other thought and quite a few actions I employ scream of both a desire to be loved and the inability to conform myself into a woman deserving of that inborn desire.
After you take me in your arms and tell me that you love me for all that I am and all that I’m not, I will disappoint you time and time again. You will wake up one day, turn over, look at me, and be sick and tired of what you see. I will open my mouth, and I will have found the words that aggravate you like no other.
How will you love me then?
Don’t give me self-help advice: I am a sinner. I do not need to be reassured that my sin isn’t that bad, or that my imperfections just work together to make me a perfect package. Point me from my sin to my need of a Savior.
Love Christ for Christ
Christ drives this message home to his pharisaical audience with unparalleled force.
You think you’re so righteous just because of your actions? Well, God requires a reorientation of your very nature (Romans 7). You can try with all of your might to be and do the right things but let’s face it: you’re just a whitewashed tomb (Matthew 23:27). And your whitewash may fool everybody around you, and it may even delude you, but on that last day, you will stand as an open, exposed sepulcher needing to answer for all of your shortcomings. If you haven’t been perfect, you haven’t been good enough (Matthew 7:22).
God doesn’t require your best. He demands holiness (1 Peter 1:16).
But God, in his rich mercy, doesn’t leave us in that naked place. He clothes us. And not in our good works, but in the righteousness of Christ himself (Philippians 3:9). He clothes us in the works of a Son worthy of his love. And, because of that love, we become righteous. His worth becomes our refuge.
And he doesn’t do this because we’re perfect little snowflakes who had him at hello. He does it because he is just that inherently loving, all on his own. (Ephesians 2:8)
Love Me For Christ
When God looks at me, he doesn’t see the ugliness of my sin. He sees the beauty of Christ’s righteousness. And if we are waiting for perfect people to walk into our lives utterly deserving of our love, we’re not viewing them through the right lens. I don’t need someone to love me for “me.” I need them to love me for all that Christ is on my behalf.
Now, here’s what I don’t need: “Jasmine. The minute I saw you, I realized that though your face is sub par and your character is severely lacking. I had been presented with a marvelous opportunity to show benevolence by claiming you as my own in spite of the fact that you repulse me.”
Um, thanks, Bob. But, no thanks.
Song of Solomon, for instance, talks about a love that is full of raptures and romance. There are qualities that the Lord puts into us that certain other people just bring out. Some relationships make us blossom like no others. Marriages should be that way. Friendships should, too (Prov. 27:17). And God has put certain things into me as an individual that are special, that others will appreciate in a unique way.
But the decision to love one another should be rooted much deeper than my inherent goodness, which is nonexistent.
Love should be rooted in Christ’s inherent goodness on my behalf and how my growth and character reflects the fact that I am his. I want the things that people love about me — and we’re not just talking romantic love here — to be the things that herald the fact that I have received an inheritance of righteousness that I did not earn, but strive to walk in it nonetheless.
Love As God Loves
I love romantic movies.
Don’t judge me.
But the rainy slow-motion proposals just hit me right in the gut. The, “I knew I loved you when…” and the “I chose you because…” of it all is just chock-full of preciousness that I cannot deny.
However, as believers, we have an opportunity to cultivate a love deeper than a false notion of another person’s perfection. And we can give others a hope beyond the pressure of maintaining a perfect facade. We can be men and women who love each other out of the depths of the love that God offers to his children in Christ.
And then, we get to love people, not just for who they are, but for who they will become as his grace continues to mold and shape them to Christ’s gorgeous image. We get to love them, not just for this perfect Hollywood moment, but for all of the moments that God has ordained for their sanctification and ours. We get to see them, not just for who they are for us, but how they can be used by the Lord of the universe!
That’s how I desire to be loved. And it’s the love I’ve been given. So, in him, it’s the love I can give.