Colorado Springs: What Does Love Look Like?

I won’t speak for other people, but love rarely comes easy for me. Self-concern tends to be my default outlook, which means I find it far more natural to remain preoccupied with things like pettiness, envy, and the pursuit of my own happiness than to think about the needs of the people around me. And that’s true even when the people in question actually care for me. When I’m called to love those I don’t know, or even those who disagree with or oppose what I believe and value, I find it even more difficult.

And yet, that’s apparently what police officer Garrett Swasey did as he responded to a gunman opening fire at a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado Springs last week. Before being taken into custody, the shooter killed three people and wounded nine others. Among the dead was Officer Swasey.

In addition to working full time in law enforcement, Swasey was an elder at a local evangelical church in Colorado Springs. He was also pro-life. One of the church’s pastors, Scott Dontanville, said Swasey would have “disagreed with the abortion industry.”

So it’s very likely that Swasey would have had significantly different views with many of the people he rushed to the clinic to protect. In the wake of what happened, it seems silly to call them enemies, but it’s fair to say at least that they would’ve been on different sides of a serious cultural divide. Even so, Dontanville didn’t think that made a difference to Swasey: “I don’t think that was on his mind. He was there to save lives. That’s the kind of guy he is.” Police chief Brian McPike added, “There was no way any of us could have kept him here.

All this is a heart-rending reminder of a few important truths. First, genuine love involves much more than feelings. It’s no accident that Paul’s famous description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 is very action-oriented. He writes that love is patient and kind. It keeps no record of wrongs. It doesn’t delight in evil and so on. And tellingly, the passage also mentions that love always protects.

Secondly, genuine love is often costly. In this case, Officer Swasey sacrificed his life. It also meant that his grief stricken wife, supported by members of their church, had to tell their two kids, ages 11 and 6, that their father wouldn’t be coming home.

Still, in the midst of the undeniable agony of this situation, there is good news. Because the one who calls us to such costly love has already demonstrated that love for us. After all, it was this love led him to a cross, so that we who were once his enemies can be forgiven of our sin and granted new and eternal life with him. And so it is the same love that, even through their wrenching pain, will allow Garrett Swasey’s family to look forward to one day seeing him again. Only this time, God himself “will wipe every tear from their eyes” and “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

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