Excuse my simplicity, but this is what I believe.
After all the clashing of religious truths, after the endless verbiage of theologians, and at the end of every spiritual quest, there are three immortal words spoken by the Apostle John: “God is love.”
Could it really be this simple? Yes! Love. But what kind of love? We see romantic love, love of Self, love of money, love of power, love of our own family, tribe, or political party at the exclusion of others. In February, a month equated with love, it behooves us to recall some words from the New Testament, that collection of writings that rise like a hymn of God’s love sung to all of us.
The first were spoken by Jesus, part of the accumulated sayings we call The Sermon on the Mount. I have chosen Eugene Peterson’s The Message version because of its bold freshness.
You’re familiar with the old written law, “Love your friend,” and its unwritten companion, “Hate your enemy.” I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” – Matthew 5:43-48
The second selection is from the Apostle Paul, a man who “breathed hatred” towards Jesus’ followers, then had a conversion so dramatic that he climbed what I call the Everest of Love. From that lofty vantage point, he wrote the timeless words of I Corinthians 13, a Himalayan peak of world literature. Here are a few of its verses, again from The Message, so applicable to our lives today!
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always “Me first,” doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel. Love takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best. Love never looks back, but keeps going to the end.
I pray that the depth and quality of our love for all people will grow, not only this month of February 2018, but throughout our allotted days. God is love and love is our highest calling.