English is a very rich and expressive language but it has drawbacks. When it comes to the all important word “love,” we have only one word that depicts many types of love.
We can love our pets, our significant other, our job, our children, our friend, our neighbor. All these different types of love are expresses by the single word “love.”
We all know the different types of love – physical love, sexual love, Christian love, filial love, parental love, romantic love, to mention a few. The word “love” is even used in tennis. The problem arises when we confuse one type of love with another. When a person declares “I love my job,” that is a totally different type of love that a person has for a spouse.
Christian love is different from romantic love. Christian love is wanting what is best for the other. That is why Jesus told us to love our enemies, so we could remove any hate from our hearts. We can love our enemies by praying that God change their hearts. Remember that Jesus converted St. Paul from being an enemy of the church to being its greatest spokesperson.
The following story is a good illustration of true Christian love.
“One busy morning about 8:30 a.m., an elderly gentleman in his 80s arrived at the clinic to have stitches removed from his thumb. He said he was in a hurry as he had an appointment at 9 a.m. I took his vital signs and had him take a seat, knowing it would be over an hour before someone could see him.
“I saw him looking at his watch so I decided that since I was not busy with other patients, I would evaluate his wound. On examination, it was well healed, so I talked to a doctor, got the needed supplies to remove his sutures and dress his wound.
“While taking care of his wound, I asked him if he had another doctor’s appointment this morning since he was in such a hurry. He told me no that he needed to go to the nursing home to eat breakfast with his wife. I asked about her health.
“He told me that she had been there for a while and that she was a victim of Alzheimer’s. As we talked, I asked if she would be upset if he were a bit late. He replied that she no longer knew who he was, that she had not recognized him in five years.
“He surprised me so I asked him, ‘You still go every morning, though she doesn’t know who you are?’ He smiled as he patted my hand and said, ‘She doesn’t know me, but I still know who she is.’
“I had to hold back tears as he left, I had goose bumps on my arm, and thought, ‘That is the kind of love I want in my life.'”
True love exists in unequal exchanges. God loves us even though we do not deserve it. That is the same type of love that we must try to acquire. St. John tells us, “God is love.” When Jesus directs to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, he is not telling us we are not to have any imperfections. He is telling us that we must be all-loving as God is.
Although he was not a Christian, Mahatma Gandhi understood the unifying principle of love. He said, “My life is an indivisible whole, and all my attitudes run into one another; and they all have their rise in my insatiable love for humankind.” William Shakespeare also summed it up well when he said, “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.”