Today we’re revisiting a magnificent topic: love. The chief New Testament writer Paul had declared that “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1 [all quotes are from the New Revised Standard Version–NRSV).
Paul then shares how love is greater than faith! And hope? Nope, even hope pales against love. God’s love has an almost mind-numbing significance. “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three, and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
It’s rare to find anything comparable to the transformative love Jesus taught and lived. Other religions have interesting moral/ethical systems and helpful teachings on various topics. Yet it’s rare for God’s power to emerge more powerfully than in Jesus’ “Golden Rule”: “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12). The Golden Rule is superb because it summarizes one of God’s chief requirements from humanity. How amazing to consider that if most people would practice the Golden Rule then most evil might disappear.
Would most of the world’s institutionalized religions become less necessary if the Golden Rule were practiced consistently? Examining the history of religions reveals that much of organized religion cleverly circumvents the Golden Rule by diverting emphasis from love to lesser concerns. Despite attempts to ignore or cover-up the Golden Rule, it remains notoriously difficult to practice. Part of the problem is that it’s challenging to internalize a rigorous ethical code. It’s easier to say and rehearse the Golden Rule with words then it is to enact. As always, it’s hard to practice what is preached. This is the great human struggle, to close the gap between what people ought to do and what they actually do. The church is here to help bridge this divide and provide instruction and encouragement for demonstrating God’s love.
It’s hard to overestimate God’s love, which is the fantastically powerful essence of God. “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). Love is the essence of God and is expressed through the salvation/forgiveness, constituting redemption through Jesus’ sacrifice. We embrace the loving Spirit of God which then empowers, guiding from within as we’re awakened to who and what we are becoming. Love is the highest aspiration, but it bears repeating that it’s a constant struggle to love as much as we could and should.
Jesus practiced what he preached, and that is one reason why he exudes moral authority. People watched Jesus and noticed that he was inspired by a higher standard. Jesus’ message of redemption continues to guide people as they strive to connect with the Almighty. Love demands more than lip service, hence Jesus demonstrated comprehensive love, culminating in his willingness to give his life—the ultimate and highest price of love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus’ emphasis on love transforms theory into reality—if you accept and follow love’s redemptive invitation.
There’s a magnificent summing-up by Jesus about how love connects with God and energizes human purpose and destiny. Jesus was asked about what was the greatest commandment, and his reply echoes through eternity. “[Y]ou shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31). You can’t expect more clarity than this because Jesus’ words summarized both the Old Testament Jewish Law and the New Testament message of redemptive love.
There’s no exhaustive list of every possible act of love, but then again there doesn’t need to be. Love is life’s guiding principle, like a force or energy that illuminates form within and that can be directed in infinite ways. If this seems too vague then you may define love as any act or attitude that enhances life. Consider that love is the giving of yourself in a way that promotes the best interests of others. No matter how you parse it, love is something you can feel and recognize despite lacking a single, universally acceptable definition. Love is limitless, without timid boundaries. Love is a guiding light which, when internalized as part of a transformed lifestyle, produces amazing effects in both earthly and heavenly realms. Are you ready to be transformed by love?
Join us at St. John United Church of Christ where we accomplish the mission of expressing love through discipleship and outreach. We partner with God to strengthen existing Christians (discipleship) and we partner with God to make new Christians (outreach). Strive to get up close and personal, connecting with God and with one another by transcending the façade of superficiality and religious theater. Cultivate the deepest, most meaningful relationships and demonstrate God’s love with vigorous joy.