In 1984, the British rock-n-roll band Foreigner released what has arguably become their greatest hit, namely, "I Want to Know What Love Is." I have to admit...even though some of my friends will balk...this is one of my favorite classic rock songs. Sure, it can sound a little sappy at times, but the duality found in the chorus lyrics is nothing short of profound! The chorus starts with the title lyrics, "I want to know what love is" and continues with the lead singer's impassioned plea, "I want you to show me." But what follows is possibly the greatest turn in rock-n-roll lyricism--one that captures in just a few measures the principal heart song of man. The chorus proceeds, "I want to feel what love is; I know you can show me." Only three words differ between the "I want" stanzas, but these words make all the difference!
Mick Jones--the writer of the song--is a philosophical genius. What he highlights in this simple "plot twist" is the interplay between the cognitive and incarnational aspects of love. As the chorus begins, we first encounter the singer's desire for the knowledge of love, along with a request for his object to show him that knowledge. This quest for the cognitive understanding of love is something for which mankind has longed since creation. The great philosophers, thinkers, and theologians of history have all written on love. The Bible speaks of love from Genesis to Revelation. Soldiers of all flags have penned love letters from far-off lands for hundreds of years. Indeed, man's heart has endlessly cried out in sundry ways for greater understanding of this subject, and the heart cry can still be heard today.
But Mick Jones' muse continues, "I want to feel what love is; I know you can show me." In this simple line, we experience a move from cognitive understanding to the higher plane of incarnation. For the singer, it is no longer good enough to simply know what love is; he now wants to experience it. He wants to feel the loving touch of his object, embrace the loving spirit of another, and be swept off of his feet by an exemplar of intimacy. And his statement at the end, "I know you can show me," is a clear rejection of the mere knowledge of love as he equates it here with the same knowledge that it can be so much more!
Isn't this how all of us really look at love? We might not say it as eloquently as Mick Jones, but we've all said or heard someone say, "It's one thing to say you love me, but I want you to show me your love" or, much more directly, "Talk is cheap!" And, of course, we've all read Paul's God-inspired words on the matter of incarnational love: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails" (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). Yes, love is certainly more than mere words and cognitive understanding!
Admittedly, Mick Jones and Paul both stand in judgment of me so many times in my life. Sure, I know what love is, and I can tell others what it means. But to show it...always...even when I don't want to show it and even when it's hard...well, that's the real challenge, isn't it? Nevertheless, I must be willing to rise to the challenge and ask myself the hard question. Are the people in my life feeling my love, or, like Foreigner's muse, are they crying out for incarnation of that which they know I know?