Sunday, May 10, 2015

no greater love than this

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

In  our gospel today, Jesus says to us: ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.’ That he uses the word commandment should tell us something very important straight away - that for the Christian love is not something that is dependant upon the emotions. It is not a feeling, something that we either have or do not have, over which we have no control. It is a decision, an act of will. If it were not, how could Jesus command us to love others? for then he would be asking of us something that it was impossible for us to do.

But because he puts it in the form of a command, we know that it must be something that we can either chose to do or not. And it is obvious that this must be so, since God would never ask of us something that it is impossible for us to do. For that would put us in the position of failing to obey his command, and thereby sinning, while yet being unable to obey his command. But we know that God does not do that; he can not do that, for God is love, and how could the one who is love do such a thing as deliberately causing those whom he loves to sin? And so when he tells us to love one another - more, when he tells us to love our enemies - we know that it is something that we can do - that we can decide to do - and that our emotions do not come into the equation at all.

The next thing we must understand about love is that it must express itself in action. Just as it is not an emotion, it can not take its form as some kind of warm and fuzzy feelings about others. This should be obvious to us from the actions of God himself. He not only created us, he created the world and all that is in it to provide for our needs; and he sustains us in existence by his will. This is his love in action.

More, he loved us so much that when the relationship of humanity with him was damaged by sin - that is, by refusing to obey his commands - his sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might be saved, that the relationship between God and man might be restored. This is his love in action. And more still, that Son, having become man, and having experienced all the things of life that we do - heat, cold, hunger, thirst, pain, and loss - he then died for us, for our sins. This is God’s love in action - the greatest love of all, to lay down his life for us.

So God teaches us by his love that our love must take form in action. And that, again, should be obvious to us. What person, being told by another that they loved them, would believe it to be true if that person then left them hungry, thirsty, cold, without clothes, without shelter, or other basic necessities of life? Actions speak louder than words, as my late mother often told me; and love that limits itself to words, to vague expressions of goodwill without anything concrete to back them up, is no kind of love at all.

And then the next thing about love we must realise is that is has to move beyond the physical into the spiritual. Again, this should be obvious to us from the example of God’s love. The Father did not send the Son into the world so that we might be warm and well-fed, but that we might be saved; the Son did not lay down his life for us so that we might not thirst or lack for adequate clothing, no - he died for our sins; and when the Holy Spirit comes upon us, as we see him doing to the gentiles in our reading from Acts, he does not do so for the sake of our having all the material comforts of life - he does so for the sake of our souls, for the sake of our salvation. So God’s love itself teaches us, that if we are to love others in the way that he loves us, we must not just be concerned but take action for the sake of the spiritual welfare of those whom we love, those whom he commands us to love.

Again, this should be obvious to us. This life is not all that there is; how then could it be love if we limited our love to making sure that those we are called to love had the things they need to be well in this life but did nothing at all to help them enter into eternal life? It would not be love, but a cruel trick if we were willing to help provide a person with the things they need for this life which is passing, but did nothing at all to help provide them with what they need for the next life which is eternal.

So Christ calls us to love one another; it is a command, not a choice; and it demands that we care not only for the body but the soul of those we are called to love. I pray he will give you the grace and the strength to love others in the way he commands; even as I pray that those who love you will also love you with the same Christ-like love. 

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