The Meaning of True Love: Beyond the Rose

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By Joe LaGuardia

In the next few weeks, the season finale of The Bachelor will air without little drama.

If you’ve never watched the show, I’ll fill you in on the plot: Basically, a bachelor spends two months with a few dozen women to find the love of his life.  During the show, he eliminates a woman until one lucky lady is left to marry.

Ever since I heard about The Bachelor, I thought it preposterous.  Who would sign up for a show like this?

Now, some 15 seasons later, we see that there are many people who are eager to find the love of their life by flaunting their passion on prime-time television.

I have watched only a few minutes of this past season, and it seemed to have changed very little from previous years:  Women go around telling the cameras how much they love the Bachelor.   She loves him, and she loves him, and she so completely loves him. (There’s a lot of love on that show.)

Then there’s the bachelor:  He doesn’t want to hurt this one’s feelings or break that one’s heart, but its inevitable.  It’s always a wonder, he says, how a person can love two women at the same time.  That’s how affairs begin, dummy.

Our favorite moments of the show happen when a contestant just loves the bachelor–she wants to spend the rest of her life with him, she wants to have his babies.  Then, as soon as she is eliminated and is driving home in the limousine, she changes her tune:  The Bachelor is the biggest jerk in the world.

I think the real mockery in all of this is that the show confuses what true love is really all about.

Have we as a society become so shallow as to think that love is something you can just find on a reality show, something that is entirely driven by emotional responses to what amounts to nothing more than sensual desire?

Striving for love is something that has been around a long time.  We even see it as far back as the Old Testament:  God is indeed a God of love more than God is something of the myth that claims the Old Testament God is a God of wrath, but Israel fails to realize that.

God tries to convince Israel over and over again that God’s first commitment is to His people is a posture not of fleeting, emotional love, but of “steadfast love.”  The Hebrew word is hesed, and it implies the same kind of compassionate, self-giving love as the Greek word, agape.

Yet, we find people in the Old Testament about as anxious as our lovely contestants on that reality show.  They know they want love.  They strive, and they long, and they reach for love, but find it in all the wrong places.

It begins in the Garden of Eden. God “walked with Adam and Eve,” and spoke to them in the cool of the evening breeze.  There is an intimacy there.

But then sin happened and humans get eliminated—no roses for them.  They get into a limousine, and they tell the camera, “Oh, who does God think he is?  That God isn’t about love after all!”

Since the very beginning of the New Testament, however, something happens.  God confounds our notions of love by becoming a person, Jesus Christ, who lives among us.

In Jesus, God heals the brokenhearted, interacts with the lonely and left-out, cooks breakfast on the shores of the Galilean sea and gathers disciples around the table.

And it is Lent that reminds us of true love: God’s love doesn’t come in the form of a rose, but a cross.   God suffers and experiences death in one of the most humiliating ways ever in order to express three simple words to us: “I love you.”

There was something that God had to do, and that was to experience suffering and testing and temptation on our terms.  It is not love built on lust, but sacrifice, for as scripture tells us: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

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