Seems simple enough to love one another, but what do we think love is. When I shared about singing a new song one of the things that can become evident very quickly is how we have different tastes and preferences in our music choices. Churches have split apart on what kind of music they should play.
Just as there is a great diversity of ideas on music so too when it comes to loving one another we have different ideas on what it means to love each other and how we define love seems to change through time.
So to love one another appears simple enough but love is complex in its simplicity.
If you will indulge me I would like to share a short video entitled “What is love?” from one of my favourite websites Soulpancake.
Right at the beginning of the video a young boy says that “Love is a complicated thing” and I would agree with that. And maybe you picked up on some of its complexity in listening to all the different answers.
So when it comes to Jesus commandment to love one another as I have loved you we already have our own ideas and biases about what love is. I want to pick up on what one of the women in the video said in her answer.
“It is something you do on a day to day basis. Love is active.”
Now many of you would have heard that the word we translate into love from Greek has 4 different forms. The ancient Greek language had 4 different ways of categorising love.
The word being used in this passage is the word agape. This is generally understood to mean unconditional love – love that does not expect anything in return. But I want us to push a little deeper into that idea.
How does God love us? By sending Jesus into the world. By Jesus proclaiming the good news of God’s love to us. By Jesus dying for us. By Jesus rising for us. By Jesus ascending for us to pray for us forever. God loves us by doing something.
Love is not a feeling or an emotion love is what God does. Or as John put in his letter “God is love.” Love is what God does – so if we are to love one another it cannot stop at an emotion, an interior feeling or thought that I keep to myself. No, love involves us acting, doing something.
Now in loving like God loves us we cannot make the same sacrifice that Jesus makes on the cross for us – that was a once and for all moment. But we can act in love towards one another as a sign of this love.
Quite a few years ago a friend recommended a book to me that some of you may have also read. It was written by a guy called Gary Chapman and was called The Five Languages of Love. Have any of you read this book?
In the book Chapman outlines these 5 ways we express our love in action and as we think about loving one another in all its simple complexity these 5 ideas can be helpful. Words of affirmation. Gifts. Physical touch. Quality time. Acts of service. I want to go through each of these and give some examples, or maybe more accurately some homework to you because as you listen to them I want you to be thinking about how you might express love to someone this week.
Words of Affirmation
- Write a letter or card to someone to express your thanks or congratulations.
- Ring an old friend and reminisce together
- Be grateful to someone who serves you in a shop
- Take your gift of flowers from the church today to someone special
- Give an extra gift of money to a charity
- Make a gift or card for a member of your family
- Remember to hug a member of your family every day!
- Embrace a friend when you meet them this week
- Hold the hand of someone you love more often
- Put a person you love in your diary this week, listen to them and enjoy their company
- Take some extra time with God: express gratitude and pray for others
- Have a technology ‘fast’ and spend more face to face time with friends
Acts of service
- Take on an extra chore around the house
- Commit yourself to do something for the church or a charity
- Ask a family member, friend or even a stranger what you can do to help them out
Now what is very interesting is that what Chapman emphasises is that each one of respond more strongly to a different expression of the giving and receiving of love. A good example of this is that for some people a hug is important and for us well it is more like an invasion of their personal space. We are all unique in what our preferred expression of love is and how we interpret loving actions towards us. This is why I think we miss the mark so often in trying to love one another – because we are complex and unique individuals.
To jump back then into the passage and think about how Jesus loves his disciples. His actions towards them which include his choice to call them friends, his choice to teacher them, his choice to entrust them to bear fruit on his behalf is all done in the context of knowing that these men are far from perfect people. Jesus actions of love towards his disciples is not reliant on them getting everything right or understanding it but on the choice Jesus makes to go on loving them.
For me this is the hardest aspect of love. To love another person whom we may find difficult to get along with. To love another person who is not loving us back or not acknowledging our acts of love towards them. To love others when are not feeling loved ourselves.
For me this is where God steps into the gap between our call to love one another and our ability to love another. There are days I do not feel loved and also days I do not feel very loving – more often than not these days coincide!
It is in these moments that God’s ultimate action of love in Jesus’ death and resurrection transcends who we are not able to be for ourselves and joins us through God’s grace to Jesus’ very life through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Today we will celebrate that in remembering the great act of God’ love as we take bread and wine and receive again through word and action the presence of God into our life. We share in communion in the faith and hope that as we act so to God will act within us.
So, we return to where we began: It seems simple enough, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you, abide in my love... love one another as I have loved you.”
Today, we will share in that love of God in bread and wine. God’s grace. The fruit that we are given to share from our encounter God this day is to go from this table to act as loving people: through Words of affirmation. Gifts. Physical touch. Quality time. Or, acts of service.
Take a few moments of silence. Consider what is God saying to you this day? Who are you being called to love and what will you do about it?