For once I prefer the expression in the NIV to that in the Japanese! The idea of an outstanding debt really hits the nail on the head, but too often we don’t feel we “owe it” to people to love them. The Japanese expression for “cute” is written with characters that mean literally, “able to love.” That says something very sad about human nature, and how conditional our love tends to be. We set up parameters, consciously or unconsciously, of how someone has to be for us to love them, and when they deviate, we don’t feel love for them. The problem is, genuine love is not conditional. It is no accident that God chose Greek to be the language of the New Testament, because it makes the distinctions in kinds of love that are necessary to really understand it all. Agape love is genuinely unconditional, and we experience it so seldom that we have trouble understanding it. It is in itself essentially non-emotional, though it can certainly trigger strong emotions. It is a clear decision, and has all the power of the will. It is completely unselfish. This is the love that Paul is talking about here. If everyone operated in this kind of love it would indeed be paradise, because everyone would genuinely desire the very best for everyone else, without denigrating their own worth. We hardly know how to do that! The reason we owe it to others to love them this way is that we are loved that way by God Himself. That is where the debt comes in: just loving God in return isn’t enough. As Jesus stated explicitly, such love is what God desires of us. (Matthew 22:37-40)
I was raised in a home that did a pretty good job of illustrating Biblical love, but that doesn’t mean I avoided selfishness. However, I did know that love was a decision, and when I chose to love my wife, it stuck. I have found over the years that genuine love is as much a response to the other person’s need as it is to our own. We tend to get that backwards, but selfish love isn’t agape, but eros. In the mutuality of the marital relationship those certainly commingle, but when we leave agape out of the mix we are left eventually with nothing at all. Over the past few months my wife’s health issues have actually strengthened my love for her, because I can choose to meet her needs as the Lord enables me. Conversely, it is painful when I am unable to meet her needs. I wish I could restore the neural pathways in her brain that have been stretched or cut, but that is going to take time. I wish I could impart the patience she needs to deal with it, but that is between her and God. What I can do is be with her as much as possible, gently supporting and encouraging her, and certainly praying for her. I need to have faith for her when her faith is weak. God has brought us to this place and He will bring us through it, and I need to help her trust that.
Father, thank You that yesterday was much better than the day before for Cathy. I pray that today would be better still. I pray particularly that the internal healing would proceed apace and that she would recognize it and be encouraged, trusting You, Your plans, and Your schedule for her, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!