It's a cliché. "Love conquers all." It's printed on t-shirts, bumper stickers, and bookmarks. It was my grandma's mantra. "You just have to love them," she'd say, especially when one of her grandchildren did something illegal or immoral. I've run across many people over the years who've held to a similar ethic. Love people in spite of themselves. Love your children no matter what they do, right or wrong. Love yourself. You'll be amazed at what you accomplish. But this is why love destroys the world.
All the evil that's ever been set loose on the world has been done in love. For the love of ourselves, family, and nation, we'll justify anything. It doesn't matter if our actions are morally good or evil. So long as we act out of love, we can convince ourselves it's the right thing to do. It doesn't even have to be necessary so long as it's done out of love. We do horrible things to ourselves and each other in the name of love.
Are we capable of doing good? Yes, of course. But, too often what we call good is justification for our selfishness. That's why we have the same capacity for good as evil. We throw ourselves into our work because we believe it's good. We love it. We're doing it because we want others to benefit from what we do, so long as we get something in return. A "thank you." A paycheck. Something that makes us feel good about ourselves. We want to feel loved, so we do everything, good and evil, from selfish motives. We can't act otherwise.
It's in our nature to always distinguish good from evil, love from hate, righteous from lawless. It's been this way since nearly the beginning. A woman turned away from God's Word, took what was not given to her, ate it, then turned and gave the remainder to her husband. They rebelled upwards against God's Word and were cursed to love loving good and evil. Every day, we chase after that love. We hunger and thirst for the feeling of being loved, often to the destruction of ourselves and the world.
How often has genocide been justified by "love of country"? How many people have destroyed their marriage, their children's future, careers, and more for the love of money, fame, and influence? We can't help ourselves. It's our way of life. Frightening as it is, we must confront the truth about ourselves. Everything we love that isn't founded on true love is the love of evil.
So where do we find true love? Does it require some soul-searching? Not likely. The apostle Paul writes in Romans 7 that we don't even understand our actions. Maybe we get it from our soul mate? No. Soul mates don't exist. Can we find true love at home, school, or at church? No. People are people regardless of where they're seated at the moment. We're just as bent toward selfishness at home as we are in church on Sunday morning. That's why true love can't be found. He finds us.
True love isn't a thing. We can't find true love in our souls, soul mates, or safe spaces. We can't marry true love, buy it, or create it from scratch. True love, according to Scripture, is God. Jesus himself says as much: "God is love."
God and love are synonymous. Specifically, God's love who comes to us in flesh and blood. Jesus, our Savior, is love. Jesus comes to seek and save us from our selfish love. He sends us a preacher to declare the good news: "God so loves the world that he gives his only Son so that you will not perish because of your love of evil. instead, you now have eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ."
This is also why John writes that "perfect love drives out fear." God is love. Jesus is God. Only Jesus can drive out the fear that turns us away from him to our selfish, self-serving actions that mask as love. Jesus sets us free with his selfless, self-giving love to abandon our selfish, self-serving love.
Every time we hear the Gospel, at every baptism, and every Sunday that we receive his body and blood for the forgiveness of sin, we're confessing our need for true love. We're saying our amen to that same true love who comes to us and sets us free to be beloved children of our heavenly Father. Jesus' love is so freeing we're even set loose to love our enemies!
Love conquers all. But, it's a person, not an emotion. Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected for our justification is true love in action. The only love that we can call good and know is most certainly true love today and always — God's love who loves us in spite of ourselves. Perfect self-giving love who gives himself to us, nothing held back. Forgiveness, life, and eternal salvation is the consequence of his love for us. That's the kind of love we need. Love that conquers all, even death and hell. Jesus.