The Learning Curve of Love

Why would anyone do something like that?

As America suffered another school shooting this week, a familiar set of questions arose in response. Why would a young man perform such a horrific act of violence? What went wrong in terms of family, friends, school, and church? Does mental health or addiction come into play? What can we do as a society to stop such violence?

This week I was talking with a counselor friend of mine. Like all in her profession, she sees the spectrum of our human behavior and knows the ugliness of which we are capable in our nasty, broken condition. “Until we learn to love, all of us will experience violence’ she said. ‘Until we learn to love.’

Love is complicated.

We could repeat the chorus of all love is and maybe even add some to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not envious or boastful or rude… 

Love is also listening. Love is soul-searching. If I were to dare to add to Paul’s famous phrases I would be inclined to add love is learned. While we are granted by God a need for love and a tremendous capacity to give love in return, a truth is that love – in all its complexities and nuances – is learned. Over time we see what a challenge it is to truly love, like we say in the church, as Christ loved us.

As we grieve over the coming months and years for our brothers and sisters in Florida, it is time for us to get involved and iron out some of the contradictions in our culture. My son is about to turn 19 and it is odd that he can serve in the Armed Forces, cannot buy a beer, vote, cannot rent a car without difficulty, and somewhat easily buy an assault rifle. The combination does not make sense except to say when I was 19 the situation was similar and thereby is bizarrely consistent.

Beneath it all, though, is perhaps a deeper question – do we truly know what it is to love? Our practice of our greatest virtue is imperfect.  My prayer is as we grieve, debate, and decide how to go forward we would also take on the challenge of learning to love. Love is the essential which blots away the violence in all its forms from our earth, and in love’s power is where we find – in spite of tragedy – our hope.

Let’s let Paul have the last words from 1 Corinthians 13…

Love is patient,
Love is kind.
It does not envy,
It does not boast,
It is not proud.
It does not dishonor others,
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.

 

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