The power of love
Love is more than a feeling. It is choosing and willing the good of the one loved. Sadly we have defined love as feelings, strong attraction or confused it with lust. We say that we “love” coffee and that we “love” our children. Really? Do we really have the same will and intent for coffee and our children? The “love” we have for coffee is simply desire to meet our needs and a strong feeling of satisfaction when we consume the coffee. This isn’t love; it is simply desire and self-centered satisfaction. So often what we pass for love is simply desire.
Love seeks the good of the one loved. God loved the world so he acted, he sent his son into the world (John 3:16). Christ knew that life is full of suffering so he suffered on our behalf and to connect our suffering to the paschal mystery. Every person who has ever suffered deeply is thankful for the suffering of Christ; in it we see and experience his love. We were dead in our trespasses; the wages of sin is death so Christ died for our salvation. We don’t know how to pray so the Spirit intercedes continually for the saints according to God’s will. God’s love is humble action for our good.
On the night in which Jesus was betrayed he washed the feet of his disciples showing them love. In this literal and symbolic act he was teaching them what the lifestyle of a disciple is. It is a life of humble loving service. It is not a life lived by self -centered desire; it seeks the good of the neighbor. This lifestyle among the disciples is to be obvious to the world; in fact it will be the primary witness to the world. They will say “look at how they love one another, they must be followers of Jesus”. Christ followers are to be known by their love, not doctrine, dogma, or denomination.
Being a passionate follower of Christ means being a person who is being transformed in their inner nature and character so that they can have the ability to love; that is to act for the good of their neighbor. In doing this they will be fulfilling all the laws and commandments. They will “love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength” and therefore, “love their neighbor as themselves”.
We have strayed from this definition and understanding of following Christ. Too few Christians are known generally by their love. People say that Christians are self-righteous and mean spirited. Fights in the church are plentiful and they are nasty with each side going for blood with “God on their side”. Far too often we seek ourselves and not Christ. Small groups and their agendas dominate the politics of churches all over the country.
We must learn again the habits and practices that God uses to shape our hearts so we can learn to love again. We learn to love in degrees. It is a gradual process that begins with those for whom we already have affection for such as our friends, spouses and roommates. We begin to become aware of their needs and then act accordingly, not with them as our audience but with our Lord as our audience. We live to please Him alone. As we learn to will and act for those we like then as we grow in Christ like character then we can begin to act for the good of those we like less. The culmination of this process is the ability to obey Jesus and “love our enemies”.