A few weeks ago Hill and I attended the Faith Matters “Restore Conference” that I referenced in my last post. I loved walking away with new insights on how to be a better person and live a deeper, more meaningful life. One of my favorite talks was given by Adam Miller, an author and philosopher whose current focus is on what it means to love. For those of you reading who aren’t religious, please don’t stop reading!! I promise his thoughts are worth your time.

Adam Miller shared the following principles in his slow, deliberate, gravelly voice (which I loved):

Love is the commandment, not the reward. 

Love demands that we return good for good, and good for evil. 

Love gives not what is deserved, but what is needed.

He illustrated these principles by recounting the parable of the Prodigal Son found in Luke, chapter 15, as told by Jesus. The younger son takes his inheritance and squanders it in riotous living. Because of his actions he sees himself as unworthy of love, and therefore deserving of nothing.

The older son, who has been faithful in serving his father, sees himself as worthy of his father’s love. But he feels like that love is missing because it hasn’t been given to him how he would like. He sees that the reception given to his brother somehow robs him of the love he deserves.

In both these instances, the sons see love as a noun, something that is given or received. Something to be worthy of. Something to be deserved.

But Adam Miller points out that in order for love to be effective, it can only be treated as a verb.

Love lifts.

Love builds.

Love engages.

Love expands.

Love brings joy.

Love offers acceptance.

Love delivers hope.

Love is the father in the parable. He returns good for good, and good for evil. The father gives to both sons what is needed.


I’ve thought a lot about this talk and this parable over the past few weeks. Despite this sound philosophy, I have recently withheld love from my family because I saw love as the reward. It’s so maddening! Yet I’m try to give myself that which is needed: grace and forgiveness. 

How do you see love in your life? Do you think seeing it differently could change you?

When we see love as a reward, we spend our time trying to prove ourselves worthy of that love from others and from ourselves. If we see love as a reward, we see all the ways that we haven’t been loved by others like we would prefer. This prevents love from becoming the transformative force that it can be in our lives. It puts on he hamster wheel of striving for something that can never be achieved.

I’m guessing most of us have had times in our lives when we sit in the presence of love. A moment with someone special. A time when we see our inherent worth. I think we all long for more of those moments. If we start to see love as the law, love as the commandment, it has the power to change our lives for good. 

As Zora Neal Hurston said, “Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.”

  • Jacob
    7 months ago
    I’ve been pondering on the contents of this great post for most of the day. I believe that love is the remedy for all of the world’s problems created by governments, organizations, communities, and people in general. Love combined with grace and forgiveness could go a long way to building much needed unity. I do find it intriguing that Darwinism seems to run counter to this and many other philosophical opinions. There appears to be something innate within organic creatures’ brain chemistry that provides the directive of survival. Viewed within the context of modern human society the will to survive has been adapted into competitive behaviors and a life heuristic of the if / then statement. For example, if I do what I’m ask then someone will love me. It seems to me that many are stuck within this mental construct anf often fail to identify the joy of love as the law. With all of this being said, I am unsure the next steps required to invite others to see life through this new perspective and attain the joy and peace we all seek. As I get older I wonder if each must take the journey of self reflection and discovery before we understand who we really are and why we are here in the first place.