Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4 v 7-8
The Bible has a great deal to say about love. In fact, as we read today in 1st John the Bible says that “love is of God” and “God is love” ; in other words, love is a fundamental characteristic of who God is. Everything God does is impelled and influenced by His love.
The Bible uses several different words for “love” in the Hebrew and Greek, interchanging them depending on context. Some of these words mean “affectionate love”; others indicate “friendship”; and still others, “erotic, sexual love.” There is also a distinct word for the type of love that God displays. In the Greek, this word is agape, and it refers to a benevolent and charitable love that seeks the best for the loved one.
At this time when we are separated from our loved ones, the changed interactions we have with them are teaching us a great deal about love. I’m sure we all seek the best for the people we love but in these very different days of lockdown, when small things become larger in our minds, irritations and frustrations with our family and friends are inevitable. However, this is where the teaching comes in. What do our arguments and ruptures in relationship teach us about understanding and reconciliation? Can we deepen our bonds with each other by growing together through the heightened experience of being apart? I have noticed recently, for example, that many people are talking more, connecting more regularly and having to be creative about showing their care and concern for their loved ones. Maybe you have sent a parcel or present, have taken a photograph of your garden or a view on a walk you’ve been on to send to someone or maybe you have shared a meal with someone on screen. Love is adaptable and if we give it room to grow and move, it adjusts and bears all circumstances.
Agape, the benevolent, selfless love that God shows, is mentioned often in the New Testament, including in the well known “love chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13. There, love’s characteristics are listed: love is patient and kind; love doesn’t envy, boast, or disrespect others; love is not proud or self-seeking; love is not easily angered, doesn’t keep a record of wrongs, and doesn’t delight in evil; rather, love rejoices with the truth; love always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres; love never fails. Of the greatest of God’s gifts, faith, hope, and love, “the greatest . . . is love” (verse 13).
The Bible says that, since true love is part of God’s nature, God is the source of love. He is the initiator of a loving relationship with us. Any love we have for God is simply a response to His complete and unconditional love for us. Our human understanding of love is flawed, weak, and incomplete, but the more we look at Jesus, the better we understand true love and the Bible says that we are to love others the way that God loves us. We are to love the family of God (1 Peter 2 v 17). We are to love our enemies—that is, we are to actively seek what is best for them (Matthew 5 v 44). There is a word for partners as husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5 v 25). As we show understanding, benevolent, selfless love to others in our daily lives – those we know and love and those we have never met before – we reflect God’s love to the world. “We love because God first loved us first”. (1 John 4 v 19).
So, as we see in action every time we join together at 8pm on a Thursday to clap, and as is said in the words of a well known pop song: “love will keep us together”. And as people of faith, we know, that even when our human relationships are tired and tried and tested, it is that higher love that binds us to one another and that helps us rise above.
Today’s prayer and music: