(Image: Love on St. Felix St. by Colin Mutchler, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)
Christian A. Schwarz has done a masterful job of dealing with the polarities of love in his new book, The 3 Colors of Love. He has undergone a personal paradigm shift of his own in his realizations that healthy churches are loving churches. He then goes on to deal with the more complete definition of real love. Love is then comprised of justice, truth and grace.
Love as Justice: Desires to bring deliverance and freedom as it seeks to destroy the oppressive forces and structures that keep people in bondage. That is God’s compassionate love in action. This is not simply about the objective fairness often associated with a court of law. Rather it includes a genuine compassion for others that goes beyond legal justice. True justice is expressed in compassion that acts on behalf of the other.
Love as Truth: Challenges and confronts, as it desires the best for the person. That is God’s trustworthy love in action. This is more than mere honesty but implies trustworthiness. Love is true and this implies the person doing the loving is true and trustworthy. The Pharisees model for us the opposite of what it means to love in truth. Jesus indicts them, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the Scriptures. So practice and obey whatever they say to you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach” (Matthew 23:2-3). Being trustworthy is then a person whose private life matches their public life. Love that is true is trustworthy (faithful).
Love as Grace: Accepts and believes in the person. That is God’s accepting love in action. Grace is based on a relationship of acceptance. It is more than forgiveness. According to the Scripture, it literally means giving yourself. “And while he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. . . ‘We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!” (Luke 15:20-32). Love that is gracious accepts people where they are and believes the best about them.
Schwarz is making a case that love is fully love only when all three dimensions of justice, truth and grace are in place. They each must exist in relationship with the other for the fullness of love to exist. It is easy to focus on one or two of these components, and forget about the others. When that takes place the light and love of Jesus becomes darkened.
The reason our love is incomplete is that it is often centered on the self. We often work our personal wounds, lack, injury, etc., in the arena of life. All too often what we are doing when we “love” others is nothing more than rubbing salve over our own hurts or absolving or appeasing our conscience. Granted, the actions can be beneficial at times but it is not the love the Bible exhorts us to have.
So Paul took his stand in the open space at the Areopagus and laid it out for them: "I'm here to introduce you to this God.... He doesn't play hide-and-seek with us. He's not remote; he's near. We live and move in him, can't get away from him!" ~Acts 17