I adore the late Eugene Peterson's riff on love from his book of sermons:

Love is the most context-specific act in the entire spectrum of human behavior.

There is no other single human act more dependent on and immersed in immediate context.

A dictionary is worthless in understanding and practicing love. Acts of love cannot be canned and then used off the shelf. Every act of love requires creative and personal giving, responding, and serving appropriate to -- context specific to -- both the person doing the loving and the person being loved.

Because of the totally personal, particular, and uniquely contextual community dimensions involved in even the simplest act of love -- the circumstantial complexity and inescapably local conditions -- there is a sense in which we cannot tell a person how to love, and so our Scriptures for the most part don't even try.

Instead of explanations or definitions or generalizations, [the Gospel writer] John settles for a name and the story that goes with it: Jesus. 'We know love by this, that he [Jesus] laid down his life for us -- and we ought to lay down our lives for one another (1 John 3:16 NRSV).

Then he lets us find the particular but always personal and relational way to do it in the Jesus way:

'We love because he first loved us.' (1 John 4:19, NRSV).

(Eugene Peterson, As Kingfishers Catch Fire)

Isn't this fabulous?

No cookie-cutter love, this. Instead, living out Jesus' call to love is contextual, unique to our own landscape, circumstances, environment. It is unique to each person we have the opportunity to love. We are given broad brush strokes in the Scriptures, the rich stories of Jesus loving in myriad ways, and then given the gift of creative imaginations to help us develop our own myriad ways to love.

But just because there is no prescription, it does not in any way diminish or devalue the highest call upon a human life.


This is why we are here.

This is our ultimate work.

Our singular purpose.

  • Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash