By Kevin Squires | Senior Director of Church Partnership love-unpluggedI’m a child of the 80s and 90s. With that, comes embarrassing stories, shows I’d never admit to watching, and a certain “Material Girl” that was (regretfully) my crush. But, it wasn’t all bad. The world was in transition. As a boy, I went from long hair in the 80s to short hair and long sideburns in the 90s (RIP 90210). Shorts got longer thanks to Jesus, of course, and the Fab 5 of Michigan basketball. Pants got baggier and saggier because of . . . well, Hammer-Time! And music got unplugged.

Yes, the 90s unplugged music when MTV produced its critically-acclaimed Unplugged series by taking world-renowned recording artists (i.e. Eric Clapton, Mariah Carey, Neil Young, etc.…) and displaying their talents acoustically (unplugged). It stripped the artists of technological advancements and showed the audience what the real music sounded like in the trenches of production.

In light of Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be interesting to flash back to the days of MTV’s Unplugged and attempt to Unplug: Love. Many Bible scholars refer to 1 Corinthians 13 as the “love chapter.” In other words, it shows what love—in its most perfect, “plugged in,” and advanced form—looks like. Impossible without the Spirit of God, the Apostle Paul lays out the characteristics of love: patient, kind, not envious or boastful, not arrogant or rude, not insistent on its own way, not irritable or resentful, not rejoicing in wrongdoing, but rather rejoicing with the truth. The beauty goes on and on.

However, love isn’t always beautiful. More often than not, it’s kind of messy! In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus unplugs love and defines what it looks like in the here-and-now trenches of life . . . when life is hectic, busy, messy, and bound by certain restrictions.

Shortly after Jesus told the parable, He asked the question, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” In many ways, the question was much more intrusive than that. He was also asking, “How did the Samaritan show (unplugged) love to the man who was in need?”Jesus had clearly already answered that question by depicting the Samaritan wholistically meeting the physical, economic, social, and spiritual needs of the man in need. Jesus somehow managed to unplug love from its neat and tidy home and connect it to the grind of our daily lives: the dirty, expensive, sacrificial, and time-consuming reality of our lives.

Tim Keller, in his book Generous Justice, said, “Jesus refuses to let us limit not only how we love, but who we love. It is typical for us to think of our neighbors as people of the same social class or means . . . We do it for people like us, and for people whom we like. But, Jesus will have none of that.”

Luke 14:12-14 further unplugs love in the Parable of the Great Banquet:

[Jesus] said also to the man who had invited him, ‘When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.

During this month, unplug love by loving people outside your reach. Join with me in praying that God transforms and expands our definition of neighbor. Pray that His Spirit guides us to those who most need of a friendly ear, voice, or touch.