If you don't do acts of love, you don't really love.

Loving God, and Loving Your Neighbor

Love - the context for everything else

What Is Christian Spirituality? Loving

brother? sister? All.

The Definition Of Love

love : I'd be a fool if I tried to define love. I can point you to its source, and say "God is love". I can point you to Jesus on the cross, and say, "this is what love does". I can point you all around, for signs of God's love. I can point at you, and have you think about those you love, and those that have given you love. And I can point to Paul, in what he wrote about love in his letter to the Corinthians. I can't define God, so I can't define love. Love is defined by the way God loves. God loves by coming to be with us and for us - the father running down the road to reunite with his lost son, Christ coming as a human being, the sending of the Spirit. And God does not merely ask, or even urge, us to love. God commands love, and created a life that beckons us to love and demands that we love if it is not going to break apart. All this should be enough; leave the rest for the folks.

Now, go do it.

"If love is the soul of Christian existence, it must be at the heart of every other Christian virtue. Thus, for example, justice without love is legalism; faith without love is ideology; hope without love is self-centeredness; forgiveness without love is self-abasement; fortitude without love is recklessness; generosity without love is extravagance; care without love is mere duty; fidelity without love is servitude. Every virtue is an expression of love. No virtue is really a virtue unless it is permeated, or informed, by love (1 Corinthians 13)."
---- Fr. Richard P. McBrien, *Catholicism*.

The Centrality of Love

The most fundamental thing about our relationship with God is love. God's love for us. The command, to love God with all that we are. God's call is to love our neighbors as we do ourselves. The Lord calls on us to love those we would much rather furiously consign to flaming hell (or worse, if possible). The follower of Christ must always keep in mind that nothing is so important in and of itself that there is a reason not to do it in a loving way. Love is complex in the human beast; it sometimes means the end of relationships, the protection of one against the unloving acts of another, or a labyrinth of questions about friends and lovers. Love makes us thirst to learn, stops us from jumping to conclusions, or silences us from making rash statements. We speak of being love-sick, but it is love that makes us well. Love is so central to existence that there are many imitators, many pseudo-loves and wanna-be-loves, many covers we've developed to protect us from real love, or to prevent love from causing real contact between us. The best inspires many superb imitations. But there is no substitute.

A blog post on loving in the special everyday moments, and choosing each other again and again, from Sarah Bessey.
And, one from Todd Thomas, on not passing judgement.

Real love is a daunting challenge.

A site reader asks :

> Who is my brother? <

My brother. Oh, brother...that's a lot like asking "who is my neighbor?". In Luke 10, Jesus turned that question around by telling us to be a neighbor to others (v. 37). Same with 'brother/sister'. The more important question with brethren is not how to define who is/is not my brother/sister. That's a conflict-creating idea that can too easily turn into passing judgement. The real question is how we can be brothers and sisters to each other. For that is what He commanded of us. That doesn't mean our fellowship is without definition -- it means that those who are not brothers/sisters in Christ show themselves to be so by how unbrotherly they are, how they rip apart rather than build up, how they warp what love is, how they lie about Jesus. It is then that the foot must come down, and we say, 'this is not the action of a follower of Christ'.

> how can I get to love my enemies? Should I love this
> person, that belongs to the enemy?

God loved us 'while we were yet sinners'. That's not the slightest bit less true of my enemies and persecutors than it is of me and my allies. I've tried, but I can't love that way. God has to teach me how, build that ability into me, by putting into me, through the Holy Spirit, the only love that can do it -- Christ's love. Devotions and Bible study can help make the space for it in your life. But this love is still something you choose to work on with God, and choose to act on, so that this love can also be truly yours as well as God's.

Another reader asks:
> ...I think I might be too dazed by my boyfriend. At least my friends think so. But he's so loving to me. How can I tell if that's what he's really like? <

I'm not an expert at advice to the love-lorn, since that's what I myself am. But sometimes it helps clear away the haze if you ask: How does he treat others? Especially those who are there to help or serve? Or those who life has kicked to the curb? Or those that others hate or slight? Or, try putting him into 1 Corinthians 13: is he patient? Kind? Envious? Boastful? Resentful? Must he always have his way? Does he like to lie? Does he base what he does on the truth?

No one passes this if used as a test, not me, not you. But paying close attention to how he actually loves (or doesn't) in his daily life gives you a truer picture of him. And it will help you relate better to the real him. He may or may not be the guy for you, but he (and everyone else) are worthy of loving in the broader sense. Keep that in mind when you deal with how you treat him. Love is about more than a feeling, but the actions you take, and a way of living.

The cost of surrender doesn't hit until the accusations start. Ask Peter.

Beyond The Golden Rule

Whether we're Christian or not, we've all been taught the Golden Rule: "do unto others as you would have others do to you". Jesus , in a positive restatement of something already in the Jewish oral tradition. When you mentally see yourself in place of those you act upon, the picture becomes clearer. Think like that, and you won't be so eager to do in your main rival at work. We often pull up short when we feel in our own back the knife which we just started to twist into someone else's. This is a good place to start: it's something for us to measure up to. Yet there are some things the matter with the Golden Rule. There is, of course, the sado-masochist twist -- someone doing unto others the torture he so craves from them. A more important problem, though, is that the Golden Rule keeps you in the center of it. No matter how many lessons you learn from trading places, they're still your lessons, and it's still your human capacity to love. This capacity is more like a dinner plate than a deep well, quite shallow when compared with the task at hand of living a loving and holy life.

Jesus takes us beyond the Golden Rule. The first step past it is when Jesus commends Deuteronomy 6:5's Great Commandment about loving God, and the second like unto it, originally from Leviticus (you know, the book everyone loves to avoid), to "love your neighbor as yourself". Jesus then measures this not by your own efforts, but through what is meant by 'neighbor'. Jesus calls on us to be a neighbor, moving the focus from ourselves to others, especially another who is in need.

One Step Further

But one more step is needed. For while this approach enhances your capacity to love, it is still your strained human capacity to love we're giving out. In John's Gospel, Jesus adds the last piece to Godly love, by giving a "new commandment": "that you love one another, just as I have loved you". There is now a new measure : to love as Jesus loved. Right after He said that, He went on His way to setting a standard of love beyond our wildest imaginings : to the cross and the tomb. Then, He gave out a new power to love in such a manner: He emptied His tomb, and went back to God's Beyond, sending the Holy Spirit to us in His place. What the Spirit gives us is Jesus' holiness and Jesus' love, the bottomless well of love. No longer do we have to dish out our own love in saucer portions, we can now drench everybody with love from beyond ourselves. We can now dare to live the life of holy love, trusting that in the end there is no loss where that kind of love is found.
back to the Top