For the past few years I’ve been training myself to root for the Seattle Seahawks. When I say that, people ask why. Especially 49ers fans. If there’s something I’ll never be, it’s 49ers fan. Joe Montana ruined that for me in the 89 superbowl. He’s the villain in NFL story.

I’m trying to root for the Seahawks because we live in Washington. I grew up in Ohio and have already brainwashed my family into rooting for the Buckeyes. They had no choice in that one. And that one is easier because the Buckeyes have generally been a good team for a long time.

But, because of my brother, I also grew up rooting for the Cincinnati Bengals. For a brief moment of my childhood they were good. The made it to that 89 superbowl where the evil Joe Montana stole the ring from them. But two years after that they plummeted. They haven’t won a playoff game since Jan 6 of 1991 against the Houston Oilers, (a team that doesn’t exist anymore) the longest streak in the NFL. Even longer than the Cleveland browns who have managed to have their team move to Baltimore then start up a new team in the meantime back in Cleveland. It just doesn’t seem fair to force my kids to root for a losing team. I suppose there could be value in that.

However, though rooting for the Seahawks is getting easier every year, I can’t stop rooting for the Bengals. I can safely say I’m not a bandwagoner, because I’ve been a Bengals fan this whole, awful time. I can’t tell you the amount of ridicule I’ve taken over the years for it.

It’s how things used to be. You had your team. And no matter how bad they were, they were your team and you would be cheering them on even if they didn’t win a single game that season. I mean, people are still fans of -ichigan even though it’s been 3,000 days since they beat Ohio State.

It’s not that way anymore. People love to root for winning teams. I get it. I root for the Buckeyes. It’s fun when your team makes it to the playoffs and wins the National Championship game with their third string quarterback. But somewhere along the way winning became more important than unconditional love.

The same is true in almost every facet of our society. We love when it’s easy, but when the cost gets too high, the lure of the winning team overtakes us.

Here’s the thing, It’s not love if we only do it when it’s easy. Unconditional love only exists when there aren’t conditions put on that love. “Of course, don’t talk down me Mr. I know that.” And I agree, we intellectually know that. But practically speaking, we know very little of unconditional love anymore.

We have believed the lie of modern society that says love is about getting our own needs met. We’ve replaced unconditional love for a contractual love. We enter into relationships and make unwritten agreements with others. We agree to be in relationship as long as the other person or entity holds up their end of the agreement. But if they fail to do so, the contract is null and void and we are justified to leave.

In 1 Cor 13, Paul shared with the church what Love is supposed to look like. Though we use this passage at weddings (and rightly so), the original intent Paul had with this verse was for the church at Corinth. He has just talked about the body and talks about worship services immediately after. This is what love is supposed to look like in the church. This is what love is supposed to look like for Christians.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. 

1 Cor 13:4-8

You’ve probably heard the exercise to put your name in the place of love. “David is patient, David is kind. David does not envy…” It’s a great practice, and a great way to see where we can improve.

Look right there right in the middle of the text. Love is not self-seeking, not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs. That is the opposite of contractual love. Contractual love is in it only for me. Once I have accumulated a long enough list of contractual violations, I am justified to move on.

Jesus disagrees.

John 13:1 “It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” The apostle John wrote that. I love that line. He loved them to the end. John, when he looked back on what Jesus did, He said that Jesus love him to the end. “[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Jesus did not fail in loving us. He showed us his great love for us by laying down his very life for us. (John 15:13)

It’s not love if you only do it when it’s easy.

Going to the cross wasn’t easy for Jesus. In fact the author of Hebrews makes it clear that the greatest temptation Jesus faced in his life was that temptation in the garden to not go through with the cross. Jesus loved us to the end, even when it would mean taking the sins of all humanity on himself on the cross.

I get it. There have been plenty of people God has put in my life that I’d love to punch in the throat in the name of Jesus. And, if I’m being honest. There are people I’ve cut out of my life in the past because it was too hard to love them. I had plenty of reasons and felt very justified in my decision. They were too difficult. They only wanted something from me. They weren’t interested in growing. Those are a few of the reasons I’ve used in my own life to justify not loving someone.

It’s fun to be friends with someone when it’s easy. It’s like rooting for a winning team. And it’s much easier to stop being friends with someone when it gets too hard. It’s easier to find a new team than to keep dealing with defeat.

But Jesus didn’t love us that way. His disciples never got who He was until after the resurrection. I mean on the night before his crucifixion they were arguing in the upper room about which of them was the greatest. When He got arrested they scattered. Did that stop Jesus from going through with the cross?

In fact, it was the very reason He went to the cross. He went to the cross to begin the process of restoring love in mankind. In the garden we didn’t just rebel against God’s authority, we rebelled against His love. From that moment on, we have perverted love, making it all about us.

Like I said a couple of years ago in my Christmas novel, “The Christmas Setup,” Love isn’t love until you give it away.

Since the garden, we’ve been busy making love all about ourselves. Especially today, love is all about how someone or something makes us feel. When that feeling goes away (By the way, that “feeling” is just dopamine in your brain, that’s why it goes away. You’re not “in love” you’re high on dopamine.) we feel justified to move on because that thing isn’t making feel like it used to.

That’s not love, that’s lust. Simply put, lust is desire. When you’re hungry, you lust food. Lust is about getting your desires fulfilled. When that desires is fulfilled, we’re ‘satisfied’, but when it’s not, we say “the love is gone.”

True love doesn’t mystically disappear. Love is a decision, not a feeling. In fact, you could argue that love is only love WHEN it’s hard. You don’t need unconditional love when everything is easy. It’s when it’s difficult that you need love.

So, how are you doing at love? Have you only been doing it when it’s easy?

(After all that, I guess I have to keep rooting for the Bengals don’t I. I guess didn’t think that through.)