My friend Nathan was just talking about this, and I thought I’d ruminate on it a while. The sentence “I love you” is a phrase that is, in our culture, completely messed up and I think this is a reflection of our culture.
If you don’t think so, then just picture this situation: A guy has been dating a girl for 4 months and they’re getting along very well. He says to her: “I love you.” Now she has a chance to respond. Put yourself in his shoes with each of these possible responses:
- “That’s great.” (Then she proceeds to go home, pack her clothing, change her name and move to Sweden.)
- “Sure you do.” (She never brings it up again, and if he does, she laughs in his face.)
- “Thanks.” (Then she goes and tries to figure out what exactly “love” means, eventually reciprocating the sentiment a week or two later, when she has deeply considered it.)
- “I love you too.” (But does she actually mean it?)
Now response #4 is of course the one he wants (if “he” is anything near average for our culture). That’s what everyone really wants: to hear that people love us. He’s quite afraid of response #1 and #2, and #3 seems just as scary for the first week or two.
Why is this? Because he’s afraid that his love will not be reciprocated, and that’s what he wants. When we say “I love you,” usually we’re just asking, “Do you love me?” Most of our love, even romantically, involves someone loving us rather than us loving someone.
We have reduced the enormous concept of Love to “someone paying attention to me, and showing me affection, whenever I want.” That’s a bunk kind of love, if it even qualifies as a kind of love.
Humanity is supposed to know what love is by this: God loved us by sending His Son for us. Now, apart even from the sheer immenseness, humility, power and majesty of that, note that it’s not about God just sitting around waiting for our love, it’s Him pouring out His love, regardless of our response. Now, to be sure, He has a response that He prefers, but God still showers us with His love, even when He knows we won’t return it.
Why? Because His love isn’t selfish like our loves can be.