Love Divine - An Orange Without Seeds

When my wife and I started dating in college, she was still a Buddhist. Many things that she said surprised me, and one of them that I still vividly remember was, “I hope my love won’t become a sacrifice.” I didn’t understand what she meant. It sounded poetic to me, but growing up as a Christian, I always understood love as a sacrifice.

I always thought love has only one universal definition, but over the years I learned that it is defined differently by different people, different cultures, and different religions. It’s definitely defined differently between Christians and non-Christians.

The word, “love” is so commonly used, but so widely defined. It even has different meanings in different contexts. When I say, “I love my wife,” it’s very different from saying, “I love pizza.” I am sure I don’t love my wife exactly the same way I love pizza.

When we say, “We love America,” it’s very different from saying, “We love baseball.” We won’t die for baseball, but we will give our lives for America when necessary.

We all know that love is what makes our society a better place to live. We all talk about love all the time. The Buddhists talk about love, the Muslims talk about love, and the other day, an atheist told me that he doesn’t believe in God, but he has love. The question is: are we all talking about the same love?

In the first letter of John, chapter 4 verse 7, he says, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8). Notice, he says “love is from God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” Obviously my atheist friend admittedly doesn’t know God, so the love he was talking about must be a different kind of love.

Love is a universal term, but it is not universally the same in meaning. In fact, there are different levels or different degrees of love based on the spiritual maturity of a person. The lowest level of love is to take or to receive, and the highest level of love is to give or to sacrifice. A good example of the higher level of love we all know is the love of a mother.

When I was three years old, my grandma took me out of China and raised me in Burma. My aunt who lived with us told me, “Now, since your mom is far away back in China, I am now your mother.” As a three-year-old, I believed her; that when I am away from my own mother, my aunt is taking the place of my mother.

I remember as a child, my aunt often pealed oranges for me to eat and asked me to spit the seeds out. When I was eighteen, I visited China and met my mother for the first time. I remember we were in a hotel room in Guangzhou and my mother pealed an orange for me to eat for the first time since I left her when I was three.

To my surprise, as I chewed the orange pieces that she gave me, I didn’t have any seeds to spit out, because she had taken the seeds out. At first, I felt, she was taking unnecessary trouble to get the seeds out, since I was old enough to spit out the seeds. But, here is the difference between the love of a real mother and someone who substitute as a mother.

My aunt said that she loved me like a mother. My mother said that she loved me like a mother. They were the same words, but the meaning is different. The experience is different. The revelation is different. They both pealed oranges for me to eat, but they taste different without the seeds.

John wants us to really understand the love of God he is talking about. He said, this is the love I am talking about, “God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10)

John was saying that the Pharisees might teach you something about love, the lawyers might teach you something about love, the false prophets might teach you something about love, even the devil might teach you something about love. However, if the love they talk about is not revealed in their action with the ingredient of sacrifice, like the love revealed by God in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, that’s not the kind of love you are supposed to love one another with.

John continues, “Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:11-12) Now, we know that he is talking about loving one another with the kind of love that makes sacrifices for one another. Only that kind of love can make us feel that God is living among us. Only that kind of love can make us mature. John uses the phrase, “his love is perfected in us.” The word perfection in here means maturity. The love, with the ingredient of sacrifice makes us experience God and in the same time makes us mature.

Take a moment to consider how you have been loving others. Have you been loving others with the kind of love that is transactional—I give some and I take some, I scratch your back and you scratch mine? Or, have you been loving with the kind of love that makes you go extra miles, taking the seeds out of the orange so that the one you love will enjoy the experience better?

If you ever forget what love should be like, remember the author of love. God revealed his love through the sacrificial acts of his Son, Jesus Christ. It revealed to us the original, pure, and beautiful love that was authored by the God of love.

May God bless you with by having his Spirit living in you, providing you with spiritual maturity when you love others with the love that has the ingredient of sacrifice!


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