Love God, the Panthers, Hamburgers, and One Another … Thursdays in the Text

Girl Eating Hamburger

We love hamburgers, we love our husbands, we love a rainy night, we love one another. But what does it mean?

We “love” so many things. Cute dresses. Football teams. God. Restaurants. One another.  When “love” can mean so much, it doesn’t mean much at all.

This may explain why so many smart people end up following Buddhism-lite instead of Christianity. They’ve translated just one word better. Instead of urging followers to practice “love,” they urge “compassion.”

The funny thing is that for centuries, so did we.

The seven cardinal virtues of traditional Christianity don’t include “love,” even though Jesus tells us to “love one another as I have loved you.” Instead, they unpack the one-line command into more than one virtue, all of which are contained in that brief statement:

* Humility. Live a life of courage and self-sacrifice, treating others as more important than yourself.

* Kindness. Be compassionate (the Buddhist word) toward others. Have empathy for their situations. Maintain integrity in your own actions and be loyal to your friends.

* Patience. Maintain peace among people. Have mercy on their failings.

* Charity. By an act of will, choose to be benevolent and to sacrifice on behalf of others.

For centuries, it took four of the seven virtues to help Christians understand that simple, eight-word statement, “love one another as I have loved you.”

Today, we try to explain the meaning of the statement by teaching people the different shades of meaning for different Greek words translated in English as “love.” But we still come down to a church that loves hamburgers and each other with equal passion and equal readiness to move on to the next great thing.

What would make it easier for Christians to understand Christian love?

About Carlene Hill Byron

The former editor of New England Church Life and The New England Christian, Carlene Hill Byron is enjoying being home in Maine after 20 years in North Carolina. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild. Find her at, and on Facebook at MyHouseHasHistory.
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