“Beloved, love one another for everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God…for God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8
When I say “love”, what comes to mind? Maybe in February it’s candles, couples, candy and valentines. In April is it Easter? What about Mothers in May and Fathers in June? Each season highlights a different kind of love. Consider this: the New Testament was written in ancient Greek, a language that had four words for love! Four ways, because love can be incredibly nuanced.
So how do we English speakers get away with using a single word for all these forms? Because no matter the differences between them, all loves hold at least two things in common.
First, love is an essential ingredient in experiencing connection. I remember hearing about some friends that wanted to make pasta together. So, they got the recipe, and started gathering the ingredients. Flour, eggs, water, salt. Salt? Surely in this age of healthy minds and bodies, they could make pasta without raising their blood pressure. They tried, but instead of delicious noodles, they were left with a gooey mess! Salt made the pasta possible. Love works the same way. No love, no connection. Know love, know connection.
The second thing about love, no matter what kind we’re talking about, is that love is focused on someone. Love is a relational term. There’s been a lot of talk recently about self-love, but even this presumes we’re in a relationship – only it is with ourselves! In other words, you can’t love if you don’t have someone to love.
It’s these two things that characterize God. He feels love towards us, which motivates how He connects with us. And, He wants to be in a relationship with us. God is love.
Love is also how we show we’re God’s children. When my son looks at me with those big blue eyes, I see a bit of me in him. John writes that when we love, when we experience connection with others and nurture our relationship with them, we are reflecting and enjoying our Heavenly Father’s nature.
So does this mean when I’m not “feelin’ the love,” I’m not God’s child? If I’ve ticked my wife off, or gone head-to-head with a friend, or just don’t like people who live like that guy lives, does it mean I’m no longer God’s beloved child? Not at all. It’s true that all forms of love have feelings, but no form of love is a feeling.
Instead love is a perspective, an approach to the world, a way of living. If I want to be connected to God and others, to experience deep, authentic relationships, then I’ll love. 1 Corinthians 13 lists what this looks like: I’ll look to their needs, not only my own. I’ll seek to reconcile our relationships instead of focusing on who was “right.” I’ll let go of sadness and regret over what should have been, and embrace the people God has in my life today. I’ll fight the urge to lash out. I’ll forgive, protect, trust, hope, persevere. I’ll love.
Romance is wonderful; Motherly and Fatherly love is beautiful. But, considering how important love is in feeling connected to God and others, it’s a shame to reduce love to a few holidays alone. Doing so mistakes a few of love’s expressions for the variety of ways we humans find connection to God and each other.
Instead, let’s be a people who strive to love all year long because love is multifaceted and loving reveals our Father’s nature.
Rev. Jeremy Bellsmith