In my time with Christ in the City, I find myself reflecting more and more on the meaning of love.

Perhaps it’s the complex needs of the poor that keep the question of charity at the forefront of my mind; or it’s witnessing the missionaries living in community together, enjoying true friendship and leisure, and challenging each other to grow.

What does love look like?

The best way that I’ve heard it explained is that love is willing the good of the other, as other, and providing that good if possible. 

Love is willing the good of the other…

On a chilly Fall day, I got a call from Jake, one of our first-year missionaries. He and his street ministry team had just left the Cathedral after attending Mass when they came upon a woman sitting in the grass along the side of the stone church.

If you’ve ever been on Colfax Avenue, you would be familiar with passing those who spend the day on dirty steps and under the overhangs of the small businesses.

Jake could tell this woman was not well, and having just been commissioned in Mass to “go in peace and glorify God by his life,” he and his team stopped to check in with her.

It occurred to them that she had been drinking and that the alcohol content was too high in her system to allow for any reasonable dialogue. At this point, most people would excuse themselves from the unattractive scene. Who would blame them?

There’s no sentimentality about spending time with someone who’s drank dangerously too much. But human beings have value in the eyes of God and this woman’s good was in jeopardy. So Jake and his crew stayed, asking themselves what love would look like.

Willing the good of the other requires seeing the value in a person first. How can we know the good for another if we don’t see them as worthy of any good? Jake calling the ambulance on her behalf was how ‘willing the good of the other’ took shape.

…As other…

Sadly, in our attempts to love others, we often end up merely loving ourselves. To be completely concerned for someone else without thought of how it will serve my needs (be it material, psychological, emotional, etc.) takes great intentionality and nothing short of Grace.

To love the other, as other, is to will someone’s good with no ulterior motive. It’s the way God loves. And the only way to love like that is to have a pure heart. It’s really impossible to try to parse out completely why we do what we do, but the pure in heart don’t have to – they just focus on the good of the other.

Do you know someone who is pure in heart? Pay attention to how they love! (But look carefully because these people normally love their brothers and sisters when others aren’t watching)

…and providing the good if possible

“If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:16)

Talking passionately about solving the world’s problems can be a powerful exercise. Holding a press conference about it may even get us famous. But putting in the hard work that love requires to extend another’s good is Christ-like. 

May this Lenten season find us more resigned and likened to Christ, more pure of heart, more concerned for the poor, more loving.

Sam joined Christ in the City staff in the summer of 2019 as the Director of Outreach. He oversees the missionaries in all homeless outreach, guiding relationships between the missionaries, staff, and volunteers with those experiencing homelessness and other outreach agencies. In his free time he enjoys skiing, working on his car, and studying theology while eating dried mangos from Trader Joes.