Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Is It Possible to Love Without An Agenda?

I went to a fantastic youth ministry event this past weekend called Open Seattle. Hosted by The Youth Cartel, the Open movement is all about finding fresh and contextualized ideas in youth ministry. I heard one engaging talk from a speaker entitled "Love Without Agenda." Essentially, he was prophetically calling the church back to a radical and simple paradigm of love. 

Just love the people around you, without a program or a plan, and let God do the rest.

It sounded so simple and refreshing. Just love God and love people. I totally resonated with his heart.

But is this even possible?

Can I truly encounter and love another person without any motives, intentions, or desires for them? Is it practical or realistic to not have any internal desire to influence, encourage, or redeem? Would this agenda-less act even be considered "loving" at all?

My dictionary defines agenda as "a list or program of things to be done; a plan." The problem with saying that we must "love without agenda" is that it can foster either a) a reactive or passive sort of love, the kind that sits on its hands and waits wondering what to do next, or b) a spontaneous and haphazard love that flits about without ever planting roots deep enough to transform.

We cannot love without agenda. Instead, we must recognize and embrace love as the only agenda. 

It's not actually love if I abandon relationship with a person because they didn't meet my intentions or plans. Love is also not programmed, static, or fostered by coercion or force. The love that Jesus models in Scripture is both an unconditional and an intentional love. He chose his disciples. He invited people to follow him. He set his eyes on Jerusalem with the intended plan to save the world through his death and resurrection. I recognize that the speaker was reacting to an agenda-driven sort of love, the kind that is overly programmed and inauthentic. But the pendulum must not swing completely over to an agenda-less love, one that has no bearing in reality.

1 John 4:10 says this is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice for our sin.

Sent. Planned. Intentional.

This is why programs aren't necessarily bad. Let us redefine "agenda" as being intentional. Intentionality is about having purpose and movement, yet being willing to abandon those plans when the Spirit leads. This sort of intentional love is Spirit-driven and transformative.

When we extend a hand in invitation to the lonely, we must be intentional. When we stare into the eyes of a human being and listen to their story, we must be intentional. When we embrace the brokenhearted, set free the captive, and execute justice for the poor, it is following the program that Jesus began.

Love is the agenda. Let's stick with the program.

What do you think? Can we truly love without agenda?

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