What is Love?

I try to wrap my mind around the idea of a life, moment to moment, focused on love. When I get up in the morning, whom do I love? As we work, as we drive, as we meet people, as we plan, as we attend to all the tasks that come our way- is love our goal?

I don’t know about you, but this is not usually how I think about my day. That every thought, every action, every word be an expression of love. On the treadmill, whom do I love? When I write, how do I love? If love is my goal, I wonder who feels it. Who gets the best of our love- our partner, our kids, our pets, our parents, our work?

The first commandment is the most confounding, at least when I consider my everyday life.

Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do you interpret it?”

[The lawyer] responded, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Luke 10:26-27(CEB)

I wonder what loving God looks like- to a casual observer or to a close friend.  As I go about my day, do I consider how I can love in each situation? Do I feel a love for God, in my heart and in my being? Am I loving at a quarter-strength, or maybe half-strength on a really good day?

The legal expert tried to test Jesus, but Jesus turned the question back to him, and then evaluated his response.

Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.” Luke 10:28(CEB)

Do this. The issue is whether or not we are doing this. Knowing the right answer is only the first step. The action is the real challenge. Love is active. Luke 10 then illustrates three expressions of love.

The first begins with compassion for a dying stranger. A man pauses in his journey, risking his own safety, to spend his time and money to save a life. Extravagant mercy defines being a neighbor, and how we are called to love. Jesus’ instructions are clear:

“Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:37(CEB)

Love is action. So Martha invites Jesus into her home as a guest, preparing a meal for him and his disciples. This is a dinner party for at least fifteen people, probably many more. No small task, and a lot of pressure to serve the man she called Messiah, God’s Son, whom God will give whatever he asks. But as she shows her love for her Lord, the weight and anxiety and details of the preparation distract her.

Meanwhile her sister sits at his feet, loving by listening. Doing nothing to prepare. Loving with her heart, her being, her strength, and her mind. Which doesn’t look like action.

It is easy to lose track of love. To be distracted by details. By preparations and tasks. And if love is our responsibility, it is impossible. At least for me. If life eternal depends on my ability to love God with every part of my being, every moment, every day- well I might as well give up before I start.

But it turns out that love does not start with the instruction for us to love. It starts with the love that we experience from God.

This is love: it is not that we loved God but that he loved us… 
1 John 1:10(CEB)

God knows that we can’t get it right. That we fail at loving every day, even when we are trying (which we often forget to do). I wonder what it would be like to go through my day focused on opening myself up to experiencing God’s love. Receiving first, then expressing.

May we listen for the words of love. May we be open to receive. May we feel compassion, that we may extend mercy. May our many tasks and worries not distract us from the better part of love. May we become people who experience love that pervades our whole beings. Reflecting back love with our heart, strength, and mind. To God, and then to each person we encounter.


Bulletin: 10/7
Order of Service: 10/7
Sermon: Identity as God’s Child: 1 John 2:28-3:3

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