Elul and the High Holy Days

“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”King Solomon, third and last king in the ancient Kingdom of Israel, renowned for his wisdom, his prolific writings, and his building accomplishments. (Quote is from Song of Solomon 6:3)Back in the summer of 2012, I discovered the Jewish holiday known as Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av), which is an annual fast day in Judaism, on which a number of disasters in Jewish history occurred, primarily the destruction of both Solomon’s Temple by the Neo-Babylonian Empire and the Second Temple by the Roman Empire in Jerusalem. Tisha B’Av is regarded as the saddest day in the Jewish calendar and it is thus believed to be a day which is destined for tragedy. Tisha B’Av falls in July or August in the Gregorian calendar–our Western Calendar (quote source here). I have previously written five blog posts on Tisha B’Av on my regular blog (see search link here) beginning with my first blog post published on July 29, 2012, titled Tisha B’Av and 9/11.”

The minor holiday of Tu B’Av follows Tisha B’Av six days later, and it is known as a Jewish Valentine’s Day. Tu B’Av was the topic of my last blog post published on August 14th on this blog titled, A Day of Love.” I have also previously published a blog post on my regular blog on this holiday on August 5, 2017, titled, Tu B’Av 5777 (2017).”

Av is the eleventh month on the Jewish calendar (the Jewish civil year), and it is followed by the month of Elul, the last month of the Jewish civil year. The following information gives a brief description of the activities associated with the month of Elul leading up to the High Holy Days and Sukkot which follows the High Holy Days:

Elul usually occurs in August–September on the Gregorian calendar (Western calendar). In the Jewish tradition, the month of Elul is a time of repentance in preparation for the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur…. “Elul” can be understood to be an acronym for the phrase “Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li” meaning “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song of Solomon 6:3). Elul is seen as a time to search one’s heart and draw close to God in preparation for the coming Day of Judgement, Rosh Hashanah, and Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.

During the month of Elul, there are a number of special rituals leading up to the High Holy Days. It is customary to blow the shofar every morning (except on Shabbat) from Rosh Hodesh Elul (the first day of the month) until the day before Rosh Hashanah. The blasts are meant to awaken one’s spirit and inspire him to begin the soul searching which will prepare him for the High Holy Days. As part of this preparation, Elul is the time to begin the sometimes-difficult process of granting and asking for forgiveness. It is also customary to recite Psalm 27 every day from Rosh Hodesh Elul (1st day of Elul) through Hoshanah Rabbah on Sukkot (Hoshanah Rabbah is the seventh day of Jewish holiday of Sukkot and the 21st day of Tishrei, the first month of the new year on the Jewish civil calendar). (Quote source here.)

From the first day of Elul through the last day of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot (Hoshanah Rabbah), these dates convert to the following dates on our Western calendar for 2019: September 1, 2019 through October 20, 2019. This time period will start on Sunday, September 1st, which is one week from today. Actually, it will start at sundown on Saturday, August 31, 2019, as days on the Jewish calendar start at sundown.

As an introduction to the month of Elul, Chabad.org states:

Elul is the 12th and final month in the Jewish calendar (the sixth month counting from Nisan). It is a month that connects the past year with the coming year—a time when we reflect on where we stand and where we should be going.

It is called “the month of repentance,” “the month of mercy” and “the month of forgiveness.” Elul follows the two previous months of Tammuz and Av—months of tragedies that were brought upon us through our sins. In Tammuz, the Jews sinned with the golden calf; on Rosh Chodesh Elul, Moses ascended to Mount Sinai for a third 40-day period until Yom Kippur, when he descended with the second tablets (luchot) and G‑d’s word of joyful, wholehearted forgiveness. (The first time Moses ascended was to receive the first tablets; the second time was after the sin, to ask for forgiveness; and this third time was to receive the second set of tablets.) These were days when G‑d revealed to the Jewish people great mercy. Since then, this time has been designated as a time of mercy and forgiveness, an opportune time for teshuvah”repentance.

The four letters of the name “Elul” are an acronym for the phrase in “Song of Songs (6:3): “I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me.” “I am to my beloved”—we approach G‑d with a desire to return and connect. “And my beloved is to me”—G‑d reciprocates with Divine expressions of mercy and forgiveness.

This is the month when “the King is in the field.” Read: The King is in the Field

G‑d, the King of all Kings, is accessible. All can approach Him, and He shines His countenance to all. (Quote source here.)

In an article titled, Elul: 5 Things to Know About the Lead-up to the High Holidays,” by Jane E. Herman, senior writer and editor at the Union for Reform Judaism, she writes:

Elul is the Hebrew month that precedes the High Holidays (Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur).

Some say that the Hebrew letters that comprise the word “Elul”–aleph, lamed, vav, lamed–are an acronym for “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li,” a verse from Song of Songs that means “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” Most often interpreted as love poetry between two people, the phrase also reflects the love between God and the Jewish people, especially at this season, as we assess our actions and behaviors during the past year and hope for blessings in the coming year.

Several customs during the month of Elul are designed to remind us of the liturgical season and help us prepare ourselves and our souls for the upcoming High Holidays.

1. Blowing the shofar

Traditionally, the shofar is blown each morning (except on Shabbat) from the first day of Elul until the day before Rosh HaShanah. Its sound is intended to awaken the soul and kick start the spiritual accounting that happens throughout the month. In some congregations the shofar is sounded at the opening of each Kabbalat Shabbat service during Elul.

2. Saying special prayers

Selichot (special penitential prayers) are recited during the month of Elul. A special “Selichot” service is conducted late in the evening–often by candlelight–on the Saturday night a week before Rosh Hashanah.

3. Visiting loved ones’ graves

Elul is also a time of year during which Jews traditionally visit the graves of loved ones. This custom not only reminds us of the individuals on whose shoulders we now stand and helps us honor their memories, but also prompts us to think about our own lives and the legacies we will leave to others–kind words spoken, comfort offered, love given and received–which take on added meaning as we enter the High Holiday season. Rabbi Daniel B. Syme explains more about this custom.

4. Reading Psalm 27

It is customary to read Psalm 27 each day from the beginning of Elul through Hoshana Rabbah, which is the last day of Sukkot.

5. Reflecting

It also is a month during which we are encouraged to study and take time for personal reflection around our actions of the past year and to seek forgiveness from those we have wronged or with whom we otherwise have “missed the mark” in our interactions and behaviors. Many readily available resources can help you make this process interactive, including:

Whether you participate in some, none, or all of these Elul traditions, may you find meaning and fulfillment in this time leading up to the High Holidays. (Quote source here.)

Regarding the daily reading of Psalm 27, in an article titled, I Am My Beloved’s and My Beloved is Mine,” by Reuven Hammer, Ph.D., former president of the International Rabbinical Assembly, and author of The Torah Revolution: Fourteen Truths that Changed the World,” he writes:

The selection of Psalm 27 is very interesting. The interpretation of that psalm found in the rabbinic commentary on Psalms, Midrash Tehilim, indicates that from ancient times this psalm was connected to the Days of Awe. “The Lord is my lighton Rosh Hashana, since this is the day of judgment… The Lord is my salvationon Yom Kippur, when He saves us and forgives our sins” (27:3).

The psalm itself is complicated. On the one hand, it begins by asserting that because of closeness to the Lord, one has no reason to fear or be afraid (verse 1); yet toward the end, the psalmist pleads, “Do not hide Your face from me; do not thrust aside Your servant in anger… do not forsake me, do not abandon me…” (verse 9). It seems that the psalmist very much desires the closeness of God–echoing the idea of “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine”but feels he has not yet attained it, and God is still far from him. Thus he does feel fear and trepidation, which he has to work to overcome.

He concludes by encouraging himself to continue the search and not give up–“Look to the Lord: be strong and of good courage! O look to the Lord!” (verse 14). The message being conveyed by the psalm is that it is not easy to attain the feeling of intimacy with God, which is desirable and will banish our fears, but we must work toward it and never abandon the search.

There is no question that feelings of concern and even trepidation are part and parcel of the High Holy Day experience, even if they do not define it. The reason is simple. As we confront a new year, we begin to think of what lies ahead–and one never knows what that is. Uncertainty breeds concern.

This is expressed most openly and strongly not in the order of prayer itself, but in “piyyutim”–liturgical poems–that have been added to it, especially the magnificent “Unetaneh Tokef,” which describes the Day of Judgment.

The images there are taken from prophetic books in which the end of days, the final day of judgment, is depicted. “Who will live and who will die,” we say….

Fortunately, the month of Elul gives us the opportunity to grapple with these feelings, of accepting responsibility for those things that are within our control, namely our own actions, of seeing how we can improve and, most of all, of moving closer to a relationship of love with God which will help us to deal with our fears.

“I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine”: These are our tasks during the month of Elul. (Quote source here.)

This post has turned out to be an introduction of sorts to the Jewish month of Elul, a time of reflection and repentance. I will most likely, later in the month, be following up with a blog post or two on the Days of Awe/High Holy Days and Sukkot.

As Chabad.org states, “The High Holiday season begins during the month of Elul, when the shofar is sounded every weekday morning, a clarion call to return to G‑d in advance of the sacred days that lay ahead” (quote source here). For a brief introduction to what follows, click here.

I’ll end this post with the last verse in Psalm 27 (verse 14): Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage…

And He shall strengthen your heart…

Wait, I say . . .

On the Lord . . . .

YouTube Video: “Psalm 27 (One Thing)” by Shane & Shane:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

A Day of Love

“Touched by Fate’s tender hands, love springs eternal.”Anthony Halat, poetHappy Valentine’s Day! Yes, it’s true that there is a Valentine’s Day in August. Today is Tu B’Av, the 15th of Av, on the Jewish calendar, which is also known as the Jewish Valentine’s Day. I wrote a blog post about this holiday on my regular blog two years ago in 2017 (click here). This year it started yesterday at sundown yesterday and it ends tonight at nightfall.

According to MyJewishLearning.com, a brief description of the holiday is as follows:

Tu B’ Av, the 15th Day of Av, is both an ancient and modern holiday. Originally a post-biblical day of joy, it served as a matchmaking day for unmarried women in the Second Temple period (before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.). Tu B’Av was almost unnoticed in the Jewish calendar for many centuries but it has been rejuvenated in recent decades, especially in the modern state of Israel. In its modern incarnation it is gradually becoming a Hebrew-Jewish Day of Love, slightly resembling Valentine’s Day in English-speaking countries.

There is no way to know exactly how early Tu B’Av began. The first mention of this date is in the Mishnah (compiled and edited in the end of the second century), where Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel is quoted saying:

There were no better (i.e. happier) days for the people of Israel than the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur, since on these days the daughters of Israel/Jerusalem go out dressed in white and dance in the vineyards. What were they saying: Young man, consider whom you choose (to be your wife)? (Ta’anit, Chapter 4) (Quote source here.)

The following article gives a brief but informative history behind the celebration of Tu B’Av. It was published on August 13, 2005, and it is titled, The Meaning of Tu B’Av,” by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Chairman of Yad Vashem and Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv. He previously served as the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, and he is also a Holocaust survivor (source here). He writes the following:

Six events occurred on Tu B’Av, the fifteenth of Av, making it a festive day in the Jewish calendar.

The Mishnah tells us that: “No days were as festive for Israel as the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur. (Tractate Ta’anit) What is Tu B’Av, the 15th of the Hebrew month of Av? In which way is it equivalent to Yom Kippur?

Our Sages explain: Yom Kippur symbolizes God’s forgiving Israel for the sin of the Golden Calf in the desert, for it was on that day that He finally accepted Moses’ plea for forgiveness of the nation, and on that same day Moses came down from the mountain with the new set of tablets.

Just as Yom Kippur symbolizes the atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf, Tu B’Av signifies the atonement for the sin of the Spies, where ten came bearing such negative reports which reduced the entire nation to panic. As a result of that sin, it was decreed by God that the nation would remain in the desert for 40 years, and that no person 20 or older would be allowed to enter Israel. On each Tisha B’Av of those 40 years, those who had reached the age of 60 that year died – 15,000 each Tisha B’Av.

This plague finally ended on Tu B’Av.

Six positive events occurred on Tu B’Av:

Event #1 As noted above, the plague that had accompanied the Jews in the desert for 40 years ended. That last year, the last 15,000 people got ready to die. God, in His mercy, decided not to have that last group die, considering all the troubles they had gone through. Now, when the ninth of Av approached, all the members of the group got ready to die, but nothing happened. They then decided that they might have been wrong about the date, so they waited another day, and another…

Finally on the 15th of Av, when the full moon appeared, they realized definitely that the ninth of Av had come and gone, and that they were still alive. Then it was clear to them that God’s decree was over, and that He had finally forgiven the people for the sin of the Spies.

This is what was meant by our Sages when they said: “No days were as festive for Israel as the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur,” for there is no greater joy than having one’s sins forgiven – on Yom Kippur for the sin of the Golden Calf and on Tu B’Av for the sin of the spies. In the Book of Judges, Tu B’Av is referred to as a holiday (Judges 21:19).

In addition to this noteworthy event, five other events occurred on Tu B’Av:

Events #2 and #3 Following the case of the daughters of Zelophehad (see Numbers, chapter 36), daughters who inherited from their father when there were no sons were forbidden to marry someone from a different tribe, so that land would not pass from one tribe to another. Generations later, after the story of the “Concubine of Giv’ah” (see Judges, chapters 19-21), the Children of Israel swore not to allow their daughters to marry anyone from the tribe of Benjamin. This posed a threat of annihilation to the tribe of Benjamin.

Each of these prohibitions were lifted on Tu B’Av. The people realized that if they kept to their prohibition, one of the 12 tribes might totally disappear. As to the oath that had been sworn, they pointed out that it only affected the generation that had taken the oath, and not subsequent generations. The same was applied to the prohibition of heiresses marrying outside their own tribe: this rule was applied only to the generation that had conquered and divided up the land under Joshua, but not future generations. This was the first expression of the merging of all the tribes, and was a cause for rejoicing. In the Book of Judges it is referred to as “a festival to the Lord.”

Over the generations, this day was described in Tractate Ta’anit as a day devoted to betrothals, so that new Jewish families would emerge.

Event #4 After Jeroboam split off the kingdom of Israel with its ten tribes from the kingdom of Judea, he posted guards along all the roads leading to Jerusalem, to prevent his people from going up to the Holy City for the pilgrimage festivals, for he feared that such pilgrimages might undermine his authority. As a “substitute,” he set up places of worship which were purely idolatrous, in Dan and Beth-el. Thus the division between the two kingdoms became a fait accompli and lasted for generations.

The last king of the kingdom of Israel, Hosea ben Elah, wished to heal the breach, and removed all the guards from the roads leading to Jerusalem, thus allowing his people to make the pilgrimage again. This act took place on Tu B’Av.

Event #5 At the beginning of the Second Temple period, the Land of Israel lay almost totally waste, and the wood needed to burn the sacrifices and for the eternal flame that had to burn on the altar was almost impossible to obtain. Each year a number of brave people volunteered to bring the wood needed from afar – a trip which was dangerous in the extreme.

Now, not just every wood could be brought. Wood which was wormy was not permitted. And dampness and cold are ideal conditions for the breeding of worms in wood. As a result, all the wood that would be needed until the following summer had to be collected before the cold set in. The last day that wood was brought in for storage over the winter months was Tu B’Av, and it was a festive occasion each year when the quota needed was filled by that day.

Event #6 Long after the event, the Romans finally permitted the bodies of those who had been killed in the defense of Betar (in the Bar Kochba revolt) to be buried. This was a double miracle, in that, first, the Romans finally gave permission for the burial, and, second, in spite of the long period of time that had elapsed, the bodies had not decomposed. The permission was granted on Tu B’Av.

In gratitude for this double miracle, the fourth and last blessing of the Grace After Meals was added, which thanks God as “He Who is good and does good.” “He is good” – in that the bodies had not decomposed, “and does good” – in that permission was given for the burial.

To this day, we celebrate Tu B’Av as a minor festival. We do not say Tahanun on that day, nor are eulogies rendered. By the same token, if a couple are getting married on that day (and, as we will see below, it is the custom for the bride and groom to fast on their wedding day), neither fasts.

Beginning with Tu B’Av, we start preparing ourselves spiritually for the month of Elul, the prologue to the coming Days of Awe. The days begin to get shorter, the nights get longer. The weather, too, helps us to take spiritual stock: the hectic days of the harvest are over for the farmer, and the pace has slowed down considerably. Even on a physical level, the heat of the summer makes it hard to sit down and think things out, and now that the days and nights are cooler, it is easier to examine one’s actions.

In earlier times, it was the custom already from Tu B’Av to use as one’s greeting “May your inscription and seal be for good” (ketiva vahatima tova), the same blessing that we today use on Rosh Hashana. Those who work out the gematria values of different expressions found that phrase adds up to 928 – and so does the words for “15th of Av. (From “Practical Judaism” published by Feldheim Publishers.) (Quote source here.)

In modern times, JewishVirtualLibrary.org states:

Tu B’Av is a popular date for Jews to hold weddings, coming only a few days after the end of the three-week period (from the Fast of Tammuz, commemorating the breach of the walls of Jerusalem, until Tisha B’Av, commemorating the destruction of the Temple) in which weddings are prohibited.

In Israel, Tu B’Av is a day of love. While it is a regular workday, music and dance festivals are typically held to celebrate the day. Israelis give cards and flowers to their loved ones on Tu b’Av and the date is popular for weddings. These customs are observed by all segments of Israeli society, whether they consider themselves religious or non-religious. (Quote source here.)

So celebrate Tu B’Av! I’ll end this post with a reminder from 1 Corinthians 13:13 (CJB): But for now, three things last—

Trust, hope, love . . .

And the greatest of these . . .

Is love . . . .

YouTube Video: “Tu B’Av–Jewish Celebration of Love” by Hanan Leberman:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

An Inside Job

“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” –Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 13:13

Three days ago on my other blog I published a blog post titled, The Sound of Silence.” The title came from Chapter 3 in a brand new book titled, Talk the Walk: How to Be Right Without Being Insufferable,” by Steve Brown, radio broadcaster and founder of Key Life Network, Professor Emeritus at Reformed Theological Seminary, Visiting Professor of Practical Theology at Knox Theological Seminary and Westminster Theological Seminary, host on the radio talk show, Steve Brown, Etc.”, Bible teacher, keynote speaker, author of over a dozen books, a former pastor, and a personal friend of mine. Chapter 3 is titled, “The Sound of Silence.”

Chapter 8 in Steve’s book is titled, “Love Happens,” and after I read it, I knew I wanted to include some of what he wrote in this chapter in another blog post. In the opening paragraph to Chapter 8 he writes:

I want to talk to you about love, but it is hard. I have been putting off writing this chapter–not because I do not have anything to say. I am a preacher and I always have something to say. I have preached and taught often on the subject of love. I am not having difficulty in writing this chapter because I am unloving (even though sometimes I am), or because I do not think love is a good thing (it is). The difficulty is not because Love is not important. In fact, there is no way believers can speak truth without love, and certainly no reason to live it before the world except for love. It is not that it has become such a cliché (even though it has). The difficulty is not because there is only one word in English for love when there are several different kinds of love (there are at least four different words in the Greek). And it is not because I think everything that can be said about love has already been said (even though it has). (Quote source: “Talk the Walk,” Chapter 8, page 71).

Steve continues with the following:

The reason this is a hard chapter to write is because I have discovered that so much of what I have said, taught, and preached about love is either wrong or irrelevant. And so have many Christians.

Believers too often have made love an impossible and unreachable standard of the Christian walk. Christians faked love for so long that, most of the time they do not even know what it is anymore.

You might already know that the title of this chapter comes from the 2009 film of the same title. The film is about a therapist whose wife is killed in a car accident. He writes a book (it’s what I sometimes do, and for the same reason) claiming he wants to help others, but what he’s really doing is dealing with his own issues. It’s a feel-good, idealistic, and kind of shallow movie, but with a good point. I’ll spare you the details, but the therapist is surprised by a number of things. In his efforts to fix others, the therapist discovers that he is the one who needs fixing. Then, to his amazement and joy, love happens.

It does, you know. Love–as is true in any number of important things–is something we very often discover when we’re on the road to and looking for somewhere else….

When you least expect it, you find love in all sorts of surprising places. When it happens, it’s God. The Scripture says that God not only loves, is loving and loves us, but that God is love (1 John 4:8). That’s who God is. It’s called an “attribute” of God, meaning that wherever you encounter love, there is a sense in which you encounter God. It’s not something one defines very well, can put in a gift-wrapped box, or even adequately put in doctrinal form. At any time, in any place, and when you least expect it, love really does happen–and when it does, you know it and are surprised by it….

For years, the ministry with which I am associated (Key Life Network) conducted a seminar on radical grace titledBorn Free.” I have taught the seminar material in a number of countries and seminary classrooms. When people heard that it was a seminar on grace, they immediately thought, “Been there, done that, got it.” It was like selling ice cubes or air conditioning to people who live in the Arctic. A chapter on love could have the same problem. When any writer, preacher, or teacher starts talking about love, most Christians think, “Been there, done that, got it.”

Actually, we believers often do not understand love. Yet, it is probably the most salient attitude Christians can feel and practice in their lives, and certainly in their witness. There is something about love that changes everything. The Scripture says, “Let love be genuine” (Romans 12:9). What this means is that there is a kind of love that is not genuine. It is so very important that love be the real thing, or the attitude will become just another cliché that nobody understands and therefore nobody experiences. “I love you so much that I don’t want you to miss Christ and be lost for all of eternity” (even if it is sincere and well-intended) can become another manipulative tool in the Christian toolbox….

Jesus taught that Christians are defined by love for one another and that the world would know about him because of their love for one another. Jesus said that it was love that would cause the world to notice and understand about him. Paul wrote the amazing “song of love” in 1 Corinthians 13, and nothing before or since has spoken of love with greater beauty or power.

How can a Christian love other Christians (no mean task but the first step), and then, how can a Christian love those who would rather be left alone? If believers are going to love, it is important that we understand what it really is–and it is not what many Christians have mostly thought it was.

I am not so arrogant or naïve to suggest that this chapter is new revelation, or that I will straighten out the spurious teaching extant in the church for thousands of years. I simply want to point out what has always been there.

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul struggles with the idea of love, and while what Paul writes is incredibly beautiful it is not definitive. Paul is not going a definition of love but a description of its essence. Paul says that if people have everything and do not have love, they do not have anything important. Love is kind; love is not envious; and love is not prideful. Love affirms others; love does not often get angry; and love is happy about the good, the true, and the beautiful. Love is protecting, trusting, hopeful, and keeps on keeping on. Then Paul says that when everything else is gone, love will still be around.

That is the essence of love, but it will drive people nuts if they use it as a checklist. Almost everything in 1 Corinthians 13 can be faked, and people are all good at that. Do you (or anybody else you know) live without a degree of anger, never envy, never show pride? Do you (or anybody else you know) always trust, always remain hopeful, never give up? Have you (or anybody else you know) always found great happiness in the good, true and beautiful? Is it not true that people rejoice in what they call justice when someone gets what they deserve? How about kindness, when you are on the receiving end of gossip and slander? The danger of 1 Corinthians 13 (and a great variety of other passages in Scripture about love) is that people can check off the items listed therein and do (at least publicly) what is required, but very often others know when love is fake. People sense when what is on the inside is quite different than what is on the outside. The truth is that love is an inside job, and there is not a thing–not one single thing–you and I can do to fix the inside.

Sometimes it is helpful to understand something by understanding what it is not. (Quote source: “Talk the Walk,” Chapter 8, pp. 72-75.)

Steve writes several more pages in this chapter about what love is not, and you can read them in his new book, Talk the Walk,” which can be purchased at Key Life and it is also available on Amazon.com at this link. The section titles are: “Love is not just a verb” (pp. 75-76); “Love is not useful” (pp. 76-77); “Love cannot be controlled” (p. 77), “Love cannot be manufactured” (pp. 77-78); “Love is not often recognized” (p. 78), and Love cannot be earned (p. 78). And he ends the chapter with a section titled, “What is Love?” (pp. 79-82).

Here are the first four paragraphs from that last section titled, “What is Love?”:

Love is Jesus. That is it. If people go much further in trying to understand love than Jesus, they will miss it. John says:

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:16-19)

C.S. Lewis referred to lust in one of his science fiction books, and he said that if someone reading what he wrote had never experienced an overwhelming sexual lust no description would suffice, but if the reader had experienced it, nothing else needed to be said. That is true of love when it is real. If you have never been loved deeply, without condition, and without requirement, I do not have the words to explain it to you. On the other hand, if you have experienced it, I really do not have to say much more.

A number of years ago, I wrote a bookThree Free Sins.” Its main thrust was that the reason people are so bad is that they are trying so very hard to be good. The trying is often so prideful, ego-centered, and narcissistic that holiness is hardly ever the product. The message of the book was that–because of justification (we’re forgiven), imputation (we’re clothed in the righteousness of Christ), and adoption (we now have a cool father)–believers can lighten up and allow God to show them his love when they get better and when they do not. And then, Christians will be surprised with the goodness that often follows. That happens because goodness and failure to be good are no longer the issue. Jesus has taken care of that, and now believers can go out and play.

It is the same way with love, being loved, and loving others. Christians have been trying way too hard to love, and the harder they try, the less they love. The more people chase love, the more it recedes. Try to define, manufacture, control, earn, or use love, and love will not be found. But if people give up trying to look for love in all the wrong places, love finds them. And that love will become the key to their efforts to speak and live the truth we’ve been given. The reason God did not send a book to express his love, but instead sent his Son, was because of the nature of love. Love is not a concept, an action, or a doctrine. Love is an experience, both when it is received and when it is given. (Quote source: “Talk the Walk,” Chapter 8, pp. 79-80).

If you are interested in reading Steve’s new book, Talk the Walk,” it can be purchased at Key Life and it is also available on Amazon.com at this link.

I’ll end this post with the words from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a (ESV): Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things…

Love . . .

Never . . .

Ends . . . .

YouTube Video: “Love Never Fails” by Brandon Heath:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here