This morning I have been thinking about what it means to practice the presence of a God who is love. We know that the central commandment Jesus gave to the disciples was to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul and to love your neighbour as yourself’. It is so simple yet so profound that we spend our entire lives trying to understand and live into its meaning.
Paul begins his great discourse on love by saying “let me show you a way of life that is best of all.” (1 Corinthians 12:31 NLT) What gives me great hope is the transformation that has taken place in Paul’s life. We first meet him as a fire breathing, killer of Christ’s followers. Now he has learned what love is all about.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Cor 13: 4-7 via biblegateway.com)
We see the same transformation in John’s life. He who was known as a son of thunder becomes the apostle of love. His gospel and his letters provide a wonderful glimpse into what the love of God looks like.
If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. 15 Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them. 16 We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? 18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.
Interestingly when we reach out to others with love and compassion our own ability to love grows. I have mentioned before that I was born 2 months prematurely and spent the first month of my life in hospital. Separated from my mother’s love I built a wall between myself and others. For much of my childhood I felt that a glass wall separated me from my family and friends. Then I became a Christian and the wall began to give way. It didn’t shatter in one fell swoop but it did slowly break down. What broke it down more than anything else was my reaching out to others who had even deeper needs than I did. The support of friends who loved me also eroded its walls.
Isaiah 58: 6-12 has become my life verse, because it is my life story.
“No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
7 Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
8 “Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
9 Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
10 Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
11 The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring.
12 Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.
Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls
and a restorer of homes. (NLT via Biblegateway.com)
Reaching out to others has healed my wounds to. Learning to love others has made me more lovable (at least that’s what they tell me) and in the midst I have discovered the presence of a God whose love is so deep and so enduring that it will never leave me.