Love: deluxe or economy package?

By Diane Eaton

… the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Love and carwashes have something in common. Both enhance function: cars and people. Both also involve decisions. I realized that as I stood at the carwash one day mulling over the range of offers.

Of the various choices, the deluxe carwash package provided the best service. It included an undercarriage wash, waxing with clearcoat ultraviolet protectors, and tire shine. I chose the deluxe. It was a friend’s car and that’s what she wanted. As for my car, rain is usually good enough. However, such random methods won’t work for people — not when it comes to love!

We all realize we need love — certainly in the church these days. I still recall those red heartshaped table decorations at General Assembly. They were fitting reminders.

But here’s the challenge: Love, like carwashes, comes in a wide range of packages, from basic to deluxe. There’s a big difference! That’s why it does little good to keep appealing for more love. What do we actually want? Do we want occasional rain showers or the deluxe all-inclusive package? What would “allinclusive” involve? Just how do we expect to get it? Actually, do we even know what we need?

Obviously, we’d do well to think more seriously about love, go far deeper than this article. We need love for much more than our church issues: we need a kind of love that can cover the full spectrum of life — our relationships, families, marriages, our secret anxieties, the emptiness that plagues our youth today, and so on.

It grieves me to see God’s people struggling with problems and conflicts on barely the economy love-package. We seem to want little more than civility. That’s like driving on rugged roads in a poorly-serviced vehicle. It’ll soon break down and leave us stuck. Surely, if we can truly perceive the quality of love we need, we’d see that nothing short of the top-ofthe-line love package will suffice.

As God’s people we boldly confess that God himself is love. There you have it! God, through Christ, is the perfect, complete love package for us — God, in his infinite love for humanity — God as fully God, fully operative in our lives. That’s where it starts: “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

Dear Christians, God’s love, as the complete fullorbed multifaceted deluxe package, is our finest shared asset!

We Presbyterians have been affirming this for generations, through doctrines, creeds, sacraments and hymns. But this rich tradition can tempt us to feel quite righteous. That blinds us to our own neediness and spiritual bankruptcy. It’s like attending a carwash weekly to review the packages and converse with the vendor. It may feel nice; but it won’t do what’s needed — until we place the order and go for the wash. In other words, we trust God’s promise, and ask, and receive — the deluxe love package from God himself, of course.

“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22 NIV)

I’ve come to realize that God’s love is fully sufficient for each of us, even when church lets us down. I’ve also come to realize that God has a knack for using church problems to loosen our dependency on the institution and to deepen our trust in him. Who of us likes these refining fires? But isn’t that how we see our own neediness and mature in the very kind of love we need to build up one another and bear witness of his grace?

“God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:5b NIV)

Diane Eaton is a member of the Board of Directors of The Renewal Fellowship. A version of this article first appeared as a PresbyCan Daily Devotional.