What is Your Love Potential?
I lived in Italy back before iPhones and the internet when computers were just coming of age and computer games were very basic. Italians wanted to just be together in the same place and you could walk into the main Piazza of any town in Italy in the evening and it would seem like the whole town had descended to walk and talk together. Couples strolled hand in hand, entire families and individuals walked about, sometimes with a gelato, and talked vigorously with friends and neighbors about the day’s news or the latest gossip.
Occasionally, a carnival would come to town often with a traveling circus or some other entertainment. People flocked to hear and see the excitement, eat, drink, and hang out together. You could play games and win prizes. I used to love to hang out with my friends, get caught up in the excitement, and meet new people.
One coin-operated carnival game stands out in my memory. It was a passion tester which measured “love potential.” A punching ball—like what boxers use in practice—hung from an arm of the machine. The object was to hit that ball as hard as possible, driving it into the machine, which then calculated the player's love potential. The results from “HOT-HOT-HOT” to “boooring!” were announced with a series of lights and whistles. To my great surprise, dozens of Italian guys lined up to demonstrate their “love potential” to their friends. It was a real money-maker.
I don’t know what passion and hitting a ball have in common, but I do know that sometimes I wish I had a passion tester for my relationship with God. How much do I love Him? What is my love potential?
One morning I may feel spiritually low, distant from God. My heart may feel cold and apathetic. Does that mean I am far from God then and don’t love Him? At other times, after witnessing to someone, or after grasping the meaning of a difficult passage of Scripture, or after an especially good time of prayer and worship, I may feel spiritually “HOT-HOT-HOT” and can hardly contain the passion. Am I closer to God then? Do I love Him more at such times?
Jesus gives us a passion tester in John 14:21: “The person who has my commandments and obeys them is the one who loves me.” For those who want to quantify their love and learn to love to the maximum he says: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12–13).
These two verses tell us at least two things: What might appear at first to be an impossible passion standard (Who obeys all His commands all the time?) might now be seen as an encouragement and a challenge. Do you feel spiritually cold today? That doesn’t matter—your love potential might still be high if you choose to obey God even when you don’t feel like it. Are you on a spiritual “high” right now, sensing love for God overflowing in your heart? That love needs to be expressed not just in a “sacrifice of praise,” but through consistent obedience to His known will. You have spiritual passion if you have and obey Jesus’s commands.
Then, do you want to love Jesus more and develop that passion muscle? The way to do that is to find a way to “lay down your life” for a friend. Does someone come to mind now that you can care for in a special way, maybe to whom you could offer a gift, with whom you can spend quality time, love on or pray for?
And do you see how the key to passion is to imitate Jesus’s passion? He is not telling us to follow a bunch of oppressive religious rules. He tells us to love as he loved, and obey as he obeyed. He tells us to lay down our life for our friends because he laid down his life, and not just for his friends, but also for his enemies. His final plan, his will, is that we love well, and he gave us the perfect example, himself, when he gave his life for us.
What is your love potential? It is the degree to which you are willing to commit yourself to know and obey the commands of Christ. What is his command? To follow his example, to love him and others sacrificially.