Today we encounter a monumental lesson about God as love (1 John 4:7-21) and of compassion, which is love in action (Acts 8:26-40).
“Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). This is one of the greatest insights in human spirituality. Of all the countless descriptions about love, this stands out. Perceiving God as love makes sense given that love is the most powerful force in the universe. Understanding God as love solves some of the most troublesome theological questions about God’s mode of existence. In other words, if God is love then there needn’t be nagging hang-ups about God as a superhero-like giant with lightning eyes and a fiery robe. None of that comic book, steroidal imagery is necessary if God’s spiritual essence is love.
Christianity is the religion that’s supposed to be about love. God can be for us the love that surrounds, flows through, and ultimately sustains the highest aspirations of human life. Sadly, even a brief review of past and present indicates how difficult is the challenge of love. Hypocrisy is a recurrent fact of human religiosity, whether ours or others. It’s one thing to talk about love but altogether different to consistently practice it. Challenges abound, and even organized religion can distract and deflect from the real, deeper issues of people loving one another.
There’s no time for gloating over who has a superior religion. Wherever they are found, people of faith have a tough task to ensure they act with love and not just rehearse scripture verses and institutional rituals. It’s not about a book or religion as much as it is about our personal connection to our universal God of love. Are you feeling the presence of divine love? Choose to make love your all-consuming passion. So much are we to embrace love that it becomes the DNA of human liberation. You will experience life fulfillment by loving people. Nothing can substitute for each of us receiving and sharing God’s love and truth.
As a concept, love is inexhaustible; as a practice, love is transforming. When we do it right, love comes together as both attitude and behavior. You are not alone if you feel terribly challenged to cultivate loving attitudes and actions. Learning about love may be the easy part. Hardest is translating intellectual knowledge about love into a transformed human life. Without theory meeting reality, love becomes just another concept disconnected from daily living. The challenge for Christians and all other people of faith is to make love real as we receive and share it.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear …” (1 John 4:18a). Fear can hold people back and interfere with the willingness and ability to treat people lovingly. The human condition is often plagued by an unholy trinity of fear, ignorance and anger. Thankfully, love trumps this conspiracy of darkness. How important is it to act lovingly? “Those who say ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars” (1 John 4: 20a). The spiritual equation is clear: love isn’t prejudicial or discriminatory and you can’t embrace love while hating others. A person truly absorbed in God’s love can’t isolate himself or claim that he is loving God if he doesn’t demonstrate love for people (including the difficult, different people). Love is reflexive in that we can demonstrate our love of God by loving other imperfect creatures.
Now, we turn to an episode about love in action in from Acts 8:26-40. Jesus’ disciple Philip met a royal assistant known as the Ethiopian eunuch. This meeting marks one of the Bible’s key examples of outreach love. The unnamed eunuch asked Philip about the reference to a prophet from an Old Testament passage in the book of Isaiah. Okay, so t’s not common for people off the street to want to know details about some Bible story. However, the issue is that Philip was eager to respond to the request and he did so without making excuses. Like Philip, we are challenged to help people by taking time and sharing. Behind all this is the belief that we have something to share. What is it that we’re willing to tell the world about our faith? What is it that you want to say about God?
Inviting people to Renew or some other ministry at St. John church can be a rewarding experience. It feels good to do God’s work and to help our church thrive as we welcome people who are both new to our church and perhaps also new to spirituality. When we meet people we can do so with the thought that they, like us, need God’s help. To experience life’s joy—a life of holistic wellbeing—we feed our souls and immerse ourselves in love and truth. We can overflow with energy and enthusiasm no matter what our age, wage or stage. Our friends, neighbors and relatives can perceive that we embrace something wonderful. The essence of God comes through us as we gain energy and share our blessings.
Even with our limited knowledge there’s much to share as we train ourselves to be more loving. Many of us were raised to be quiet and not to draw attention to our faith. Yet, God challenges us to think and act ways that emphasize love through the messy engagement of outreach to other people. Please pray that all of us will feel empowered to speak and share how wonderful it is to experience God’s kingdom of love.