Week 4, Day 4: Love
Love recognizes no barriers.
It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls
to arrive at its destination full of hope.
- Maya Angelou
When Oscar Romero was appointed Archbishop of San Salvador in early 1977, he was expected to be a defender of the status quo; he was not one to rock the boat. But that changed when a close friend of his was assassinated for trying to lift up and organize among the poor. It was that experience that led Romero to begin speaking out more forcefully against social injustice, poverty, violence, and abuse of power. It was because of this activism, this fearless defense of the poor and this fearless critique of power, that Romero himself was assassinated in 1980. Yet though he was passionate and forceful, unwilling to back down in the face of threats, the weapon he used more than anything was love. He said, “The violence we preach is not the violence of the sword, the violence of hatred. It is the violence of love, of brotherhood, the violence that wills to beat weapons into sickles for work.”
Here’s my definition of love: to love is to will the good of the other. And, according to the Bible, love is what we were made for. As we learned a few weeks ago, in the Creation chapter of the Gospel story, we are made in the image of the God who is love; therefore we too are made to love. When Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is, he replies:
You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands. (Matthew 22:37-40)
For Jesus, “all the Law and the Prophets” meant the totality of the Hebrew Scriptures. In other words, he was saying that the message of Scripture could be summed up in those two commandments. In 1 John 3:14, it says, “We know that we have transferred from death to life, because we love the brothers and sisters.” Love for God and love for neighbor are the most authentic marks of a follower of Jesus and perhaps the most accurate measure of spiritual maturity.
READ: 1 CORINTHIANS 13
Fortunately for us, 1 Corinthians 13 contains a definitive (though not exhaustive) description in the Bible of what love is. Perhaps you have heard that passage read at a wedding before. Yet Paul is not merely talking here about romantic love. He has been instructing the Corinthian church what it looks like to live in love, to love one another. Unlike many contemporary understandings of love, the biblical definition is not soft or easy or fuzzy. Keeping in mind what Paul says about love in 1 Corinthians 13, read the following words of Jesus:
You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighborp and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:43-45)
I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other. (John 13:34-35)
As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete. This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I don’t call you servants any longer, because servants don’t know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because everything I heard from my Father I have made known to you. You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last. As a result, whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. I give you these commandments so that you can love each other. (John 15:9-17)
Two things may be noted: we are commanded to love others, even those we may not want to; and the love we have originates in the love that God has for us. It is a challenging command, a difficult calling, but it is God’s love and grace for us that enables us to love others.
To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that
love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity.
Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.
- Thomas Merton
REFLECT & RESPOND
Head: “Love for God and love for neighbor are the most authentic marks of a follower of Jesus.” How does this statement make you feel? How does it change the way you understand your faith?
Heart: Jesus does not stop at “Love your neighbor” but goes beyond that to “Love your enemy.” Who might you put in that category and what might it look like for you to love them?
Hands: What are some ways you can demonstrate your love for God by loving others? Pick one thing you thought of and do it today.
Let us ask God to make us true in our love, to make us sacrificial beings, for it seems to me that sacrifice is only love put into action.
- Elizabeth of the Trinity