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The Love Is Not Sentimental

Photo Credit, CCO 1.0
So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover's life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.
-Philippians 1:9-11 (MSG)

The love that we have been given and now participate in is not sentimental.  Our love comes from a person and through a person and to people.  It is not sentimental.

The love of God is sacrificial and purposeful:  "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son".  And Jesus said to his first disciples, "As the Father sent me, so I send you."  All Christians are participating in this sacrificial, purposeful love.

God's love is not sentimental.  So, the love he gives us will not be sentimental.

Sentimental means, "to be led by emotion, not by reason".  To be sentimental to to be governed by feeling and emotional idealism (sensibility).  Sentimental people are influenced by feelings of affection or yearning.

Stanley Hauerwas has been quoted as making this bold statement:
“The greatest enemy of Christianity is not atheism, but sentimentality.”
Flannery O'Connor (The Church and the Fiction Writer), wrote this about sentimentality:
“We lost our innocence in the Fall and our return to it is through the Redemption which was brought about by Christ’s death and by our slow participation in [His death]. Sentimentality is a skipping of this process in its concrete reality and an early arrival at a mock state of innocence, which strongly suggests its opposite.”
Sentimentality is not Christian love.  Sentimentality is about comfort.  Christianity is about generosity, unselfishness, and sacrifice.  It is about what you do, not what you say.

The Christian life is a life of authentic emotion and feeling.  Anger, laughter, sorrow, and joy.  These are all part-and-parcel for the journey.

In his essay on sentimentality, Francis Maluf wrote that sentimentality is "Sentiment out of place." (Sentimental Theology, Francis Maluf).  Being in love with love or falling in love with love is sentimentality.  Married people who still talk about or think about some special love in their past, are bound by sentimentality.

A sentimental friend will not tell his friend the truth, because they are afraid of hurting their feelings.   The sentimentalist also does not want to hear the truth.  They get offended and run for the hills if someone tells them the truth.

Francis Maluf wrote that, sentimentality,
"softens the character, suffocates the mind, and inflicts the will with paralysis."  
Stanley Hauerwas', final word, at the Duke Magazine Public Forum, from 2001, was to challenge the the group gathered, with this statement:
What do I need, or what do we need, to be a community of friends that can not only tell one another the truth, but want to be told the truth?
To not be bound by sentimentality, that is what we need.  We need to be able to live in truth and speak and hear truth.  We so often 'push back' on everything we hear, in our minds, and sometimes with 'sassy' verbal touches.

The unsentimental Jesus Christ confronts us with his love.  We then accept his terms or do not.  And if we do surrender to him, we become purveyors of his love to a dying world. This is unsentimental to the extreme, because it is so authentic and truthful.  Truly born-from-above people live in truth (John 3:21).

As Hauerwas said:
What do I need, or what do we need, to be a community of friends that can not only tell one another the truth, but want to be told the truth?
Sentimentality cannot continue to live in a truthful atmosphere.  Truthing is not judging, by the way, but it is caring enough to confront, which is not judging, but just being truth-ful.

If Jesus is the truth and if I live in his his love, then I will learn how to speak the truth in love.  If the truth is painful or bad news, that is ok.  But, I can not say the painful thing, or give the bad news, until I can say it in love.

Say it in love.  Say it in love.  Say it in love.  Say it in love.

If you can't say it in love, then you probably should not say it.  Get some more love first.

If we are coming out of a sentimental style, this will be very hard, because we have learned all sorts of dysfunctional ways of saying negative things.  To speak truth in love is not to sugar-coat it or to spin it or to say the negative thing with a grin.

Think sobriety.  To speak negative news in love is to do is soberly.  You might even sound 'clinical' or 'detached', and still be speaking the words with love.

Need help on walking in love?  Look at the love chapter (1 Cor. 13):
Love is patient,
Love is kind.
Love does not envy,
Is not boastful,
Is not conceited,
Does not act improperly,
Is not selfish,
Is not provoked,
And does not keep a record of wrongs.
Love finds no joy in unrighteousness
But rejoices in the truth.
It bears all things,
Believes all things,
Hopes all things,
Endures all things.
Love never ends.
That is sober, unsentimental love.  If we operate from that kind of love, then we can speak the truth in love.  Jesus is truthful, but loving.

In our lives, we get to learn to love.  That is the goal (1 Tim. 1:5).

A pastor to pastors, translated Paul's prayer, about the life of love, in Philippians 1, this way:
So this is my prayer:
That your love will flourish
And that you will not only love much but well.
Learn to love appropriately.
You need to use your head and test your feelings
So that your love is sincere and intelligent,
Not sentimental gush.
Live a lover's life,
Circumspect and exemplary,
A life Jesus will be proud of:
Bountiful in fruits from the soul,
Making Jesus Christ attractive to all,
Getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.

That's a pretty good prayer.

How do we love much and love well? By learning to love appropriately, using our heads and testing our feelings. We want to love sincerely and intelligently and not sentimentally.
Paul's words really do describe wise and godly, Christlike love.  


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