Love is Not Efficient

I read that quote recently and for some reason it has continued to rattle around in my brain and rattle me personally.  In our culture where almost everything is evaluated based on “productivity” and “efficiency” truly biblical love is often tossed aside because it doesn’t “work”….meaning it doesn’t produce the desired results in an efficient and timely manner.

As I began to meditate on this thought, I was deeply convicted about how “efficiency” based my love often is.  I want my children to evidence character qualities that are consistent with who they claim to be as followers of Jesus Christ.  I don’t want to guilt them into change so I determine to “love” them into change.  So I choose to put down my guitar and spend time with them yet, when almost immediate change is not evident (love is inefficient), I am sorely tempted to pick back up my guitar and live for my enjoyment because love isn’t “working”.  This frustration with the inefficiency of love has spilled over into my relationship with my wife and those God has called me to serve as well.

I have realized that I want to control love yet, Jesus wants love to control me.  I want to give my love in efficient packages – money to support a noble cause overseas or a missionary,  counseling appointments limited to one hour, conversations that are direct and to the point and solve the “problem” with efficiency, “quality time” instead of “quantity time”.   Love doled out according to my plan and my schedule…love that doesn’t interfere too much with my personal comfort and ease.  “Oh yes Lord I want to love…but make it efficient love because you know how busy I am with my life.”

As Paul Miller said in Love Walked Among Us (NavPress, 2001), “Love is not a one shot sortie into someone else’s need.  It gets involved; it doesn’t stay clean and separate.”  Yet, if you are like me, you desire love to be clean and separate…efficient and well organized like a Swiss watch.  Genuine biblical love is messy, challenging, and often produces confusion and a sense of being in over our heads.  Sometimes, unlike a Swiss watch, it feels like attempting to read a sundial in a thunderstorm.  It rarely comes neatly packaged and it rarely responds to simplistic 3,5 or 7 step solutions.  It interrupts our schedules, in inconveniences us, impacts our check books, and sends us with urgency to the throne of grace as we seek His power to love in this manner and his wisdom to know what to do.

The longer I walk with the Lord and live on this fallen planet the more I realize how messed up I am and how messy the world is around me.  By God’s grace, I have made some progress – I am not the same man I was 20 years ago – yet, I still have miles to go before I sleep.  It is the positive commands that show me just how far I still have to go.  The negative commands are easier to fulfill and we can check them off the list – do not steal, do not lie, do not commit adultery, etc etc.  We can live out a life of following the negative commands with a certain degree of “efficiency” and often a larger degree of pride and self-righteousness.  However, the positive commands of God – summed up primarily in his command to love – should move us to repentance and humble dependence on God to work through us.  We all have miles to go before we sleep!

As I meditate on the truth that I am to love like Jesus who allowed his schedule to be interrupted, his reputation to be “dirtied” – he touched lepers, the dead, prostitutes,  his personal comfort and ease to be diminished, and who even loved Judas “inefficiently” to the very end – I realize what an “efficient” lover I really am.  “I’ll take love packaged neatly and efficiently thank you very much.” Yet, Jesus spent time with those who could not massage his ego or benefit his wallet.  He spent time with people who didn’t “get it” the first time around but he tenderly, inefficiently kept on loving – 70×7 love!  Aren’t you glad He loves you inefficiently!

Let me ask you to ask yourself a question, the same question I asked and am asking myself, “How efficient is my love?”  May the Lord move us to repentance and humble dependence on Him as we seek to love “inefficiently” those around us that He cared enough to die for!