Remember the Love Is Cartoons? They depicted both the romantic “when he reads you poetry” and the ordinary “when you trust her to cut your hair” reminding us that whilst love can be romantic it’s so much more than that.
When we talk about love today we tend to think of sentimentality, or of “falling in love.” or we may think of the way we feel towards our children, our parents, our friends. But love is not just an emotion. It is a verb. It’s a thing we choose to do. Love, certainly love as described in the Christian faith, is a set of behaviours, encompassing kindness, patience, self control, selflessness. Yet it’s more than that. As a Christian I believe that God is love, the bible says that anyone who has known love has known God. Some Pagans believe that divinity is a life force that flows in and through everything on the earth, just as Buddhists believe in Chi. If God is love, and God is the source of all life, then love is the very essence of life; it is that ‘Chi” that ‘life force,’ that goodness. It is God. God is love and love is God.
We Christians like to think we have a monopoly on God. We don’t. We don’t have a monopoly on love either. Anyone who knows love, knows God. But maybe you don’t call her God, maybe you call her “Mother Nature” or “Allah” or “Chi” or “Shiva” or “something but I’m not sure what it is” or maybe you just call her “love” or “a series of chemical reactions in the human brain” . That’s okay. I don’t think God is in desperate need of us to use the “right” name, or to do or be anything other than loving. For thousands of years we’ve fought about all the things we disagree about, but I’m pretty sure we can all agree that “love is good” and that the world needs more of it. Again, not the squishy kind, certainly not the kind that arrives in shining armour on a white charger carrying a box of Milk Tray, the other kind, the kind I’m going to waffle on at you about in the next few posts. Please keep on reading.
“Heretic” I hear some of my fellow Christians cry, as I extend the invitation to love out to everyone without condition. “But Christian love” is different, I hear. “The love Jesus refers to is “agape” not the regular kind of love that characterises romantic relationships or secular relationships.”
Newsflash: Christians didn’t invent the word “agape” the Greeks did. We don’t have a monopoly on the kind of love described in 1 Corinthians 13 either. If our Muslims brothers experience love that is patient, kind, selfless, honest and so on, then they have experienced love, they have known God. If an atheist gay couple treat each other in the ways described in 1 Corinthians 13, then they know love, they know God. Love is love. Our tendency to categorise different kinds of love and therefore different kinds of relationship as “different to Christian love” can lead to us either forgetting that the very love described in 1 Corinthians 13 is supposed to be foundational in our whole lives, in every single relationship, or it can lead to us failing to recognise that love in others outside of our communities.
Anyone who has known love, has known God.
“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends”1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Next time: Love is patient.