by Ella Corey
Countless chick flicks depict the “perfect” love story. Starting with the original Cinderella and Prince Charming: after overcoming a simple conflict that is preventing the couple from being together, all is well again and they end up happily ever after. The same is true with any modern love story as well. You see it in Twilight, The Notebook, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, practically every romance movie, new or old. The ending is the same: the couple ends up together forever, it’s pretty predictable but for some reason we still love watching them.
We like romance movies because they’re so far from reality, they never show the ugly side of relationships. When the couple ends up together (maybe they discover their love or get married), that’s it; there’s no backing out, no more arguments, everyone wins. They always made me wonder what happened next. Do they stay together? Does their “love” last forever like they claim it will?
I’ve always liked the movie (500) Days of Summer because it did things differently. It’s still considered a romantic comedy, although the plot is extremely unlike your typical love story. In fact, it begins with the narrator saying, “This is a story about boy meets girl, but it is not a love story.” In this film, the main character Tom meets and begins to like a girl at work, Summer. After just days of knowing her he claims to love her. They date for a while but then their relationship ends up falling apart, and they both end up with other people.
What I find so interesting about this movie is that it portrays the immense deception in the modern view of love. Tom’s “love” for Summer did not mean he wanted to serve her, it meant he was infatuated by the feeling she gave him. He even changes his mind so fast he claims to hate her as soon as she breaks up with him. Tom’s “love” was selfish. He only loved when he was getting something back (her love in return). The media portrays love as the way someone makes you feel, but this movie proves that that doesn’t last; that’s not true love.
In a sermon on “The Initiating Love of God,” Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church, compares the media’s portrayal of love to Christ’s love, “Our modern cultural predominant idea of love is a shallow, hollow, ridiculous, empty, impossible-to-feel-safe type of emotive love that looks down on a deep, genuine, biblical love.” There’s a different definition to this oh-so-common word. It’s not something you can fall into or out of. It’s a decision, a statement, a commitment, and a promise to act in service and put someone else’s priorities over yours. If you look up the word love, the top definitions that come up are feeling-based (i.e. “feel tender affection for somebody,” “feel desire for somebody,” “passionate attraction and desire,” “like something very much,” etc.).
When God commands us to love one another, he doesn’t mean by our definition. We aren’t to “feel passionate attraction and desire” towards everyone we meet. Take a look at how Jesus lived. He loved by relentless service. He fed the needy and rescued the broken and imperfect. Jesus knew Peter would deny him but he still reached out and loved him. It wasn’t about who was the most loyal or who sinned the least. Jesus loved prostitutes and thieves and adulteresses. He didn’t love what they did, but he still loved them and used them.
“For God so loved the world,” now sounds a lot different. This doesn’t mean we always make God happy. This doesn’t mean he gets a feeling when he thinks about us. God makes a choice to love the world and love his creation. He makes a choice send his Son. He makes a choice to rescue us from the debt of sin. No matter how many times we don’t listen to him or choose our ways over His, God makes a choice. His command, then, is for us to take this definition of love and respond back to Him and to others.
After the movie (500) Days of Summer came out, it wasn’t getting the response the makers had intended. Girls were gushing over the character Tom, and felt so sorry that his heart had been broken. They truly believed that he was in love. Actor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt clears up the misconception by claiming that Tom is “no romantic role model.” “The (500) Days of Summer attitude of ‘He wants you so bad’ seems attractive to some women and men,” he says, “but I would encourage anyone who has a crush on my character to watch it again and examine how selfish he is. He develops a mildly delusional obsession over a girl onto whom he projects all these fantasies…. That’s not healthy. That’s falling in love with the idea of a person.”
The modern idea of love in Tom’s character isn’t at all like Christ’s, or like how we’re supposed to love. True love is unconditional. “If we don’t understand what love actually is,” says Matt Chandler, “and if our understanding of love doesn’t have some depth and some root and an anchor to it, when we begin to talk about God’s love for us, we can’t frame it up. It won’t feel as spectacular as it is, because we’ll feel as though… We’ve heard this all weekend in our baptistery testimonies. We’ve heard that we feel like we have to measure up, and we feel like we have to do everything right in order for God to love us.” The beauty of God’s love is there’s nothing we can do to take it away. Likewise, nothing anyone else does should stop us from loving. It’s not easy, but it’s the decision we, as Christians, choose to make.