Love Doesn't Have a "But"

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"Of course I love immigrants, but..."

"Of course I love minorities, but..."

"Of course I love homosexuals, but..."

No, love doesn't have a "but." Adding a "but" in virtually any sentence is a signal of dismissiveness, insincerity, or double-talk. It is the most infuriating sentence spoken by self-professed Christians in political discussion. After all, they have to "love" others, that is the indisputable core of Christianity. This paradox of cruel ideology living in the same head as a professing charitable faith is what produces the insufferable declaration: "I love, but..."

Don't Confuse Love and Empathy

Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” -Luke 10:36 ESV

Anytime I hear the phrase, "I love, but..." the person speaking it really means "I have no ill-will toward them." As in, "I have no ill-will toward immigrants; I just don't want them here." Of course, we all know that isn't close to what love means, so there is an added sprinkling of, "I can sympathize with what they are going through." So having no ill-will with a little empathy = love right? Wrong.

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Love Demands Action

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ - Matthew 25:40 ESV

Of course, it's a no wonder people are allowed to slip passing uses of love into absurd contexts; love has lost all meaning in our culture. I "love" pizza, and I "love" my wife. This watering down of love has allowed us to read Scripture with little impact. After all, it is easy to "love" others in the way I "love" pizza. (At least the way I love pizza, you might REALLY love pizza.)

The words we translate as "love" were originally translated as "charity." It is much harder to say, "I have charity for immigrants, but..." and keep a straight face with what follows. The love of the Gospels isn't emotional, it is actionable. To love someone is to assume some sense of responsibility in how we act toward them.

Love Starts with Listening

The most immediate and obvious way to love someone is to listen to them. Questions like, "What do you need?" or "How can I help?" are a great start. They are certainly better than "What's wrong with you?" or "Why are you here?" When we say, "I love you, but..." what follows is always an act of shutting someone out, devaluing them, or dismissing them. If you say, "I love you..." the best next conjunction is an "and" or a "so." Try it!

"I love you, and I want to help..."

"I love you, so you are welcome..."

"I love you, and I want to understand..."

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; - 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 ESV