We Ought to Love, But How?

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Love Should Be Abundant and Life-Giving

by Eric Elkin

Dear friends, if God loved us this way, we also ought to love each other.
— 1 John 4:11

The podcast, More Perfectproduced a show last November titled, “The Hate Debate.” In the show, the hosts and guest speakers debated free speech in a digital age before a live audience. In this technologically advanced time, where social media platforms stretch across the globe, should people be free to promote hate speech unfiltered? If not, who should police this?

The anonymity of the internet has compromised accountability. A person can say what they want, when they want and how they want without ever having to expose their identity. Face-to-face encounters often temper a person’s speech. The absence of seeing our neighbor can increase the bitterness of our words.

One of the speakers was adamant about establishing boundaries. However, he only focused on curbing Nazis. Initially, the points he made were agreeable. He wanted to stop Nazis. However, the longer he spoke, the more difficult it became to tell the difference between his view and the Nazis.

The voices countering his argument questioned the applicability of the speech filters. Who decides if something is harmful? And, who determines if a thing is true? Both are somewhat ambiguous and difficult to determine.

At the heart of the debate was the issue of love. The speaker who desired some restrictions on free speech wanted to stop people from hating so we might grow in love. Those who opposed him wished to retain the ability to engage people’s hatred with love. Whoever knew love could be so complicated?

Most of us tend to think love is a word of simplicity. The protest signs, "Love Trumps Hare," captures this naïveté. What does that kind of love look like? And, how would I be able to tell? Some people do things which seem very hateful to me but call it love. Who gets to decide what is love and what is hate? Sometimes the lines between the two are blurry.

As I reflected on this text and the More Perfect podcast, I started to define what loving each other needs. First, love is relational. It both speaks and listens without the precondition it will like what it hears. Second, love needs to be life-giving. At the end of the conversation or interaction, both people should feel their life is more abundant because of the experience.

God's love for us was intended to be life-giving. In the same way, our love for each other should be life-giving as well.

Click to read: 1 John 4: 7-21

Reflection Questions:

  • How much should free speech be controlled?
  • Where in your life has love not felt like love?
  • What does love need to be love?
  • How do you know God loves you?

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