More songs, poems and books have been written about it than about anything else; more movies made about it or involve it in some shape or form than probably any other topic. It eludes most while being searched for by all, and it is the basic cause of creation. We cannot hide from it and yet we cannot seem to find it.
When we talk about it in our world today, it is little understood as there are so many misconceptions, ideas and concepts that pass for it, hence most people are confused. Gospel artiste Kirk Franklin and his God’s Property choir underscored this when they poignantly sang,
Love, a word that comes and goes, but few people really know what it means to really love somebody.
It is this state that perhaps caused the legendary 80s pop group Foreigner to famously implore, “I want to know what love is”.
People don’t really know what love is. This fundamental principle of life is NOT effectively taught as the basis for living by family, church or school. Ask the average citizen what love is, and he cannot give a simple and adequate definition. Ask our children and hear the answers you get. Test it.
Most answers, when carefully analysed, will centre on ‘feelings’. The problem is that if we do not know what love is, how can we express it or know when we find it? This is a huge national dilemma.
So what is it? Does it have a place in nation building? I posit love as the seventh fundamental pillar on which to build a great nation – the new Jamaica.
What is the greatest pillar on which to build a nation? The common response of most would be ‘the economy!’ It is this belief that is a major determinant in our approach and methods. The result has been hard labour, frustration for all, and failure. Look at Jamaica and its struggles over the last 40 years. The same is true of most of our Caribbean neighbours; for most of Africa and many other developing nations. They have become economy-driven.
The Glue that Holds Everything Together
Some may question the basis of love being a fundamental pillar of nation building. The reality of the physical, visible world often makes us forget that the majority of life’s activity is not things you can ‘touch’, but that does not make them less real. Love is possibly the most powerful force in our world, yet it operates in the invisible sphere.
In our fast-paced, individualistic, scientific and technological world, we easily overlook (to our detriment) that love is the glue that holds everything together. We are busily constructing a beautiful, desirable edifice only to find that it is falling apart at the seams. Poor quality glue is the problem. The mason needs cement, the carpenter glue, the tiler needs thinset. You cannot successfully build anything without some form of adhesive.
The wise master builder is very conscious of the power and necessity of this ingredient and takes great care to ensure its presence and proper application in everything at every stage. It may appear insignificant (because it is not seen in the finished building), but its absence is devastating. Love is the glue that holds society together.
This essential quality of love in a society is what should drive and inform policy, programmes and laws; a basic position that accepts the worth and value of each person.
Love – Expressed in Relationships
Man is not a mechanical, technological thing, a robot or android to be used for the greed or selfish ambitions of others as has been the case for centuries. Man is inherently valuable and he is a relational being whose best self-interest and purpose can only be fulfilled through relationships. How these are managed determines individual success or failure.
Look at life and ask, what is achieved in any great measure without relationships? ‘Unity is strength’ is more than a nice-sounding clichÃ©; it is a fact of life that we must acknowledge. We know that unity is more easily achieved when there is love. We also are very aware that a lack of unity derails progress. Look at the disastrous infighting in both our political parties in recent times. Look at what happens too often in Parliament – the uncouth behaviour and the inability to get bipartisan agreement at critical times.
Look at the divisions in warring communities in our nation resulting in loss of life, oppression and sustained poverty. Look at the current situation in the USA — the tensions surrounding the Trump presidency — a nation on the verge of implosion.
Look at the powerful engine for growth and stability and inspiration in our people — the church. It is a divided entity — weak and therefore anaemic. A sleeping giant – when will Love awaken her?
An Undiagnosed Malady
We can argue and find reasons and excuses and every justification for the cause of all this, but at the base of it is the absence of love.
Love as a Qualification for Leadership
Love is that essential quality that must be correctly understood and carefully applied in any attempt to build a great nation. It is best when epitomised in leadership as a pattern for people. No nation, family or institution can perform at anywhere near optimum without it.
A prerequisite for selection to represent the people should be love for the people. Prospective candidates should have a track record of showing love for people.
Fact — most political leaders have no track record with substantial evidence of love for people. Love is evidenced by service.
Leaders in critical service areas must have the quality of love for the people. We are often more concerned with their loud and aggressive talk and their academic qualifications than their moral ones, hence the woes experienced: corrupt practices; nepotism; the quest for power, fame and fortune that drive the political process; and ongoing issues such as the treatment of people in lockups; wards of the state, the perpetual squalor in sections of the country. This is evidence of a lack of love for our people. It’s time we awaken to that reality.
Where is the Love?
Leadership that loves people cannot leave them under any form of oppression, whether by garrisons, state forces or otherwise. Leadership that loves people will always be working for their freedom and improved quality of life. Leadership that loves people will not allow one group or class to railroad another. Love ensures equality and equity.
Police brutality and abuse of citizens show evidence of a lack of love and are always a reflection on the “love strength” of the leaders. Sustained squalor and poor conditions in constituencies are issues of lack of love in leadership.
Love defined and described
The creator and Lord of the universe affirmed this two-pronged direction for maximised living: Love God and Love one another as you love yourself.
But what does it mean to love? And how does it affect national life?
Love is commitment to right, responsible action in the best interest of others consistently. It is other-centred and not self-centred. It seeks to serve rather than to be served.
Love is not so much ‘what I feel’ as ‘what I do’. It is a conscious, deliberate choice that each of us must make to treat others right. Our commitment to treat each other right naturally causes us to do right. The Golden Rule many may remember from childhood is still applicable: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 gives us the classic description of what love is:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour 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.(NIV).
Love is the Answer
Unfortunately, most of the time what we see in government and in society is the opposite of love. Can you imagine if all the drivers on our roads were patient? The road safety problem would be instantly solved. Hundreds of lives would be saved annually — the cost of all that emergency health care saved and turned to more productive use. Let’s look at a few examples that would make a difference if multiplied nationally:
Love always protects and seeks the best interest of others — this expression of love would eliminate the ‘batter bruise’ women, ‘gal inna bungle’ mentality and most importantly, absentee fathers which studies show is a major contributor to childhood poverty, teen pregnancy and leads to unloved boys turning to a criminal lifestyle.
Love is not rude, nor is it boastful. This alone would completely transform the tenor and tone of our Parliament, and our MPs might actually listen to each other and get some positive things done for the country instead of the one-upmanship and constant barbs flying around in Gordon House. It would transform our interpersonal relationships and overall society to that kinder, gentler one we desire.
Love is not selfish. The presence of this expression of love, then, would free us from corruption, injustice and all the additional, unnecessary costs associated with policing the elected officials and the civil service. You cannot rob, murder, rape, cheat people nor do them harm where love is present: crime problem solved.
Love is giving. It recognises the needs of others and steps in to help. What if we began to see our neighbours’ welfare as important and to actually help out instead of being self-centred?
Love should inform the standard for law and its enforcement. Love and mercy should inform how justice is handed out. It should dictate how we deal with both victims and those accused or convicted of various crimes.
The more love is lacking, the more people and societies are pulled apart to the point of socio-economic failure and societal implosion. Look at Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan or North and South Korea. The presence of love engenders safety and security and creates the environment in which people can thrive and achieve their highest potential. Love is the glue that keeps everything connected and functioning the way it was designed.
However,too many of us have no real experience of love. We do not even love ourselves, and so it is impossible really to love anyone else. We need to focus on this critical area and bring back the love! We must therefore learn to live together in love or we may perish together in hate or indifference.
The new Jamaica needs four expressions of love: Love of God; Love of Neighbour; Love of Self and Love of Country. With these, we will be unstoppable. We can do it.
How we are conducting ourselves is not who we are as a people. A nuh so most a we grow! So it’s not impossible to adjust if we have visionary, inspiring leadership. Let’s commit to LIVE LOVE!
Copyright © 2017 by Rev Dr. Al Miller.