These texts illuminate love for us, divine love. This means we see what love is not even as we learn what love is. This can challenge us as God doesn’t meet our expectations, but it also gives us life as God exceeds our wildest imagination.
Love isn’t placating and pleasing the other by giving them what they want (sorry Israel – no golden calf god who is willing to be less than GOD… mere ornamental jewelry).
Love isn’t restricted to only those who want to love, or who will love you back – the overarching story, to the thousandth generation no less, is the forgiveness and steadfast nature of God’s love regardless of what we do with it – we cannot be unworthy of love.
Love isn’t free from claiming us for something better, for placing before us expectations. We are forgiven, and yet the ways we participate in thwarting God’s love will still be named and called to mind to the third and fourth generation as we seek to be more fully claimed by love.
Love is neither all about me or all about God. Love isn’t simply just what we have been given but because of love we becoming loving. And God does not seek to be the object of our love and devotion, in fact God IS the love. God abides in us as we love and devote ourselves to one another: our brothers and sisters, neighbors and strangers, friends and enemies.
So what is love?
Love is an action and not simply and emotion. This is the key to incarnation. Love cannot be done remotely or apart from tangible expression. Love is dirty – its flesh and blood. Love is not God sitting on God’s throne in the heavens showering some benign good will upon the world. God’s love is revealed among us as God’s son born among us. Similarly we cannot love the world from within a sanctuary. We can talk about, prepare for it, and practice it: but loving our brother and sister requires sending ourselves into the world to love one another.
Love is giving. Fear has no place in love because loving means opening oneself up fully to the other and not allowing our fear to hold us back. Love is becoming vulnerable and open to the beloved. The world teaches us to be turtles holding back until we trust. God says that life lived safely without love isn’t worth living. And God did so by loving to the point of death… and beyond.
Loving is knowing. In love we seek to know the other, not our assumptions, not our generalities or categories. Love is about descending into the other’s abyss and seeking to know them at the deepest level on their terms – not on ours. God didn’t force us to come to God; God came to us. God didn’t keep the power; God empowered us while being completely vulnerable before us. Love is about encountering the other and seeking to make their story, our story; and making our story a part of their story.
This is the love the coming Christ illuminates for us and the constant reminder that when we abide in love – we abide in God, and God abides in us. Amen.