Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Three little words

The author of the Christian scripture, 1 John 4:8, wrote succinctly:  "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."  The Universalists, one of the two lineages of heretical Christians who birthed the religious tradition I serve, took this idea and ran with it.  "God is Love," they declared.  Over and over and over again they said it, "God is Love."

Several years ago I had a bit of an inspiration and took the well-known passage from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians and substituted the word "God" for the word "Love."  After all, as written this idea that "God is Love" is a tautology -- a logical, rhetorical structure in which the argument is true "forward and backward," you might say.  A = B, so B = A.  Or, in this case, "God is Love," so, "Love is God."
God is patient, God is kind.  God does not envy, does not boast, and is not proud.  God does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs.  God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
God never fails.
Not the kind of God that is held up by so many -- the God of judgement, wrath, condemnation, who revels in our fear and shame.  A very different God, indeed.

Recently a member of the congregation I serve offered another example of how those three little words -- God is Love -- can open up new meanings in old teachings.  In this case, a passage in the Book of Matthew (22:36-40).  Jesus is asked to name the "greatest commandment in the Law," and he replies, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."

When you really grasp the depth of meaning in the assertion that "God is Love," though, this man pointed out that what Jesus was really saying is, "Love Love with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."  We are called on, he said, to "love Love" -- to focus our hearts and minds on Love, to commit ourselves to Love.

Doctrines kind of melt away if your focus is on loving Love.  Distinctions blur.  Divisions cease to matter.  We will be looking everywhere for signs of Love, opportunities to celebrate Love, and ways that we can make Love more manifest in the world.  If we love Love, if we focus our hearts and minds on Love, then we are going to do all that we can to increase Love.

Pax tecum,


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1 comment:

arthurrashap said...

I love that you love LOVE.
I post as the tag line on my e-mails that "love is the answer."
Do we need a question?
Maybe, "What's it all about Alfie?"

Or maybe for further exploration and comment: "What is Love?" (We know 'who"?)