I shall never forget the day when Elton Trueblood at 93, his eyesight dimmed by the years and no longer able to read, shared from memory I Corinthians 13 with a group of us who were visiting him in his retirement apartment. He told us that the word “Love” has become so misused and over-used in our time that it no longer conveyed what it is meant to mean. In his recitation he replaced the word “Love” in Paul’s great passage with the word “Care,” suggesting that love equals care, or vice versa, care equals love. Is love the same as caring? I still ponder and work with that question.
To say we love a person and then not care about that person’s need, his or her loneliness, wounds and brokenness doesn’t seem to cut it. Nikos Kazantzakis, pondering the loving (caring) spirit of Francis of Assisi and Albert Schweitzer, wrote these words: “Both have in their grasp the philosopher’s stone which transubstantiates the basest of metals into gold, the gold into spiritual essence. They take disease, hunger, cold, injustice,ugliness—reality at its most horrible—and transubstantiate these into a reality yet more real, where the wind of the spirit blows. No, not of spirit; of love. And in their hearts, like the sun over great empires, love never sets.” Both of these men loved—but it was not an empty word for them—it was wrapped with care.
Perhaps one of the most painful things which can happen to us—and, of course, has happened to all us, is the feeling that no one has ever really cared enough to know what was going on inside of us. We have all been victims of this kind of neglect and it makes it difficult for us to sense that we are persons of worth. For another to say, “I love you” and then not to care about what you are experiencing seems an empty phrase. “I love all God’s children” we say, but do we care for them too? Love makes human beings human, but only if that love is wrapped with care.