Love binds us together. Paul, the Gospel writers, and others in the New Testament proclaim that central character of the Law in today’s readings: that of love. Jesus summarized the Law with “Love God, and love thy neighbor as thyself.” 1 John picks up on the trajectory of love as it binds us together as believers.
“Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” It is easy to say, “I love you,” but much more believable when those words are paired up with a hug or a kiss. So too it is with the community of faithful. It is easy to say, “We love the people of Oklahoma City, or the people in our neighborhood, or the poor at the homeless shelter.” But it is so much more impactful and believable when it is paired with more than just words, but action.
Later 1 John continues: “All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.” To abide in love is the heart of the Christian message. It is what Jesus did on this earth. It is what he declares for us to do as well.
That being said, love is not easy. And dare I say that it is easy to love family, friends, and those close to us. That is the easier side of love. The real challenge is loving those people who don’t want to be loved, or who despise you.
The world lives by different standards that often sound akin to “Love your family, and your country, but hate everyone else.” That is not the way of Jesus Christ. Instead we are called to love our enemy. As we abide in Christ, we discover some interesting challenges for us in the world.
From the Beatitudes to Revelation, we see God’s extravagant love, poured out for the whole world, freely offered, and bountifully given. That love is not meant to be squandered, but shared with equal abundance, until the whole world is rejoicing in the magnificent gifts of the One who died for us all.
He not only shows us the way to love, but offers love himself. He is all of these: the Lover, the Beloved, and the Loving.
It is this challenge and this grace into which we live.