Today’s lesson addresses God as love (1 John 4:7-21) and 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 verse represents one of the greatest insights in all of religion, certainly of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Perceiving God as love makes sense given that love is the most powerful force in the universe.
Understanding God as love solves troublesome theological questions about the Almighty’s mode of existence. In other words, if God is love then there needn’t be nagging hang-ups about God being envisioned as a glowing superhero with lightning eyes. None of that comic book, steroidal imagery is necessary.
Christianity is the religion that’s supposed to be about love above all else. For people of faith, God is the love that surrounds, flows through, and ultimately sustains the highest aspirations of human life. Sadly, history indicates how difficult is the challenge of acting in a loving manner. 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. Followers of God face the difficult daily task to ensure they are loving others rather than simply rehearsing Bible verses and church rituals. It’s not about a book or religion as much as it is about your personal connection to a universal God of love. Are you feeling the presence of such divine love or are obstacles in your way?
Choose to make love your all-consuming passion. So much are you to embrace love that it becomes your liberating endeavor above all else. You will experience life fulfillment by loving people. Nothing can substitute for receiving and sharing God’s love and truth.
As a concept, love is inexhaustible; as a practice, love is transforming. When love is practiced it comes together as both attitude and behavior. You are not alone if you find it difficult to rally loving attitudes and actions. Learning about love is much easier than translating such knowledge into compassionate action. Without theory meeting reality, love becomes just another disconnected word. Your challenge is to make love real through a myriad of moment-by-moment choices.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear …” (1 John 4:18a). Fear can hold you 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. Love overcomes this conspiracy of darkness when you leverage love’s power. 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).
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 herself or claim that she is loving God if she doesn’t demonstrate love for people (including the difficult, different people). Love is reflexive in that you can demonstrate your love of God by loving other people (and vice-versa).
What about love in action? Consider Acts 8:26-40 that describes how Jesus’ disciple Philip met a royal assistant, an Ethiopian eunuch. This meeting marked one of the Bible’s key examples of outreach love. The eunuch asked Philip q question about the Old Testament book of Isaiah. Philip was eager to respond to the eunuch’s request and he did so without being shy or making other excuses.
Like Philip, you are challenged to help people by taking time and sharing the joy and exuberance of your faith. Behind all this is the belief that you have something to share. What is it that you’re willing to tell the world about your faith? What is it that you want to say about your relationship with God?
Helping people develop a spiritual life is a rewarding experience. It feels good to do God’s work while also helping your congregation thrive through new members. Invite and embrace newcomers. Philip took the time and trouble to meet the needs of that Ethiopian eunuch. Similarly, what can you do to better meet the needs of people new to faith?
There’s much love to share every day. Many of us were raised to be understated about matters of faith. Yet, God challenges all of us to think and act ways that emphasize love, even through the messy process of speaking to people via outreach. Please pray that all of us will continually feel empowered to speak and share God’s presence.