Sunday, May 6, 2018
Jesus is what God's love looks like
A little girl was showing her mother her collection of dolls one day. The mother asked, “Which one do you love most?” The girl pointed to a miserable, tattered looking doll and said that was her favorite. “Why do you love that doll most?” the mother asked. The girl answered, “Because that one needs my love more than the rest.”
Our second reading the First Letter of John reminded us, “Beloved, let us love one another because love is of God.” In fact, our Scriptures today and all week have focused on the nature of love – God’s love for us and His command that we love each other.
But, language is such an imprecise thing. Just think of how imprecise the word love is. We use the same word to talk about ice cream, music, spouses, and even God. Surely the way we love ice cream is different from the way we love God. In Greek, which most of the New Testament was written in, there are actually different words for love. The two used in the New Testament are philia or the love between friends; and agape, which is love in its highest form. Agape is the word used most often and it’s the one that St. John is using today when he speaks of the love from God that we are called to imitate in our own lives.
John today paints for us a picture of God’s love tells us why we should love, what love is about, and how we are to love. So, why love? Then John tells us why. “Because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” John reminds us that love is from God, it finds its origin, its starting point in God. Living a life of love, therefore, is the way to be sure that we know God and that we are children of God; born of God. On the flip side, he tells us that if you don’t have love for others then quite simply you cannot know God. It is this simple: If we have love in our lives, we have God in our lives; and if we do not have love in our lives, we cannot have God either. God and love are two different words that mean the same thing. You cannot separate one from the other.
For example, we cannot claim to love God and have no care for the hungry, the homeless, the poor, the needy, the sick, and so on. To love God is to love them – all of them; in fact, especially those who are often difficult to love; or who have no love in their lives. To grow in our knowledge and love of God, we must endeavor to grow in our knowledge and love of our brothers and sisters, especially those most in need.
So, what does God’s love look like, and how does it differ from natural human love? John gives us a practical example. He says, “God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.” So, Jesus is what God’s love looks like. Unlike much of human love, which is driven by self-interest, God is moved to love us not because He needed something but because we needed something which only He can give.
Human love starts with the question, “What is in it for me?” God’s love begins with the question, “What can I do for you?” Human love comes because we want to receive something, something like feeling good in the other’s company. God’s love it is about giving. That is why God’s gift of His only Son on the Cross becomes a climactic sign of the way God loves us and the model for the way we should love one another.
Finally, John brings his point home, “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” My friends, God loves us unconditionally, God love us perfectly, completely, personally, and generously; God gives Himself to us in His Son; God’s love is freely, eagerly given.
We can sometimes view the command to love as just one of many things that God asks of us. Today John teaches us that love is, in fact, the only commandment; it is the source and motivation for all the other commandments. It should in fact be what defines our lives as believers. As they said of the Christians in Antioch so many centuries ago, should be said of us today, “See how these Christians love.”
May God, our loving Father, who is love itself; love incarnate, help us to purify our love for Him and multiply our love for one another, so that we can love as generously and as unconditionally as He loves us.
“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God.”
May the Lord give you peace.