From The World As I Remember It by Rich Mullins:
God has called us to be lovers and we frequently think that he meant us to be saviors. So we “love” as long as we see “results.” We give of ourselves as long as our investments pay off, but if the ones we love do not respond, we tend to despair and blame ourselves and even resent those we pretend to love. Because if we love someone, we want them to be free of addictions, of sin, of self — and that is as it should be. But it might be that our love for them and our desire for their well-being will not make them well. And, if that is the case, their lack of response no more negates the reality of love than their quickness to respond would confirm it.
Love is a virtue and not a feeling. It is fed and fired by God — not by the favorable response of the beloved. Even when it doesn’t seem to make a dime’s worth of difference to the ones on whom it lavished, it is still the most prized of all virtues because it is at the heart of the very character of God. By loving we participate in his life and essence. When we stoop to bait and buy good behavior we are no longer loving as God loves. We are manipulating and cheapening the dignity of the person whom we are called — not to save, not even to change — but to love.
If real salvation is possible (and we know it is) it is because real love is there. And love that is real, love that is truly a virtue and not just an act — agape love — gushes from God through those who know him. It is not strung along by those who don’t.
In a world where quantitative values have obscured the reality of qualitative values — where we long to measure progress and chart growth, it is easy to give in to the temptation to judge ourselves and to try to walk by sight. But into that confused and meaningless effort God speaks with his great, still and small voice, with his Christ. He speaks through these invisible virtues with which his people shine and in the light of their lives this desperate, smug world sees not strength, wisdom, or even love, but him who is the source of these things and the savior of humankind.
Let us in whom he dwells look also to him so we can shine more brightly.