Sermons

Sun, Mar 11, 2018

What does it mean 'to love'?

Series:Sermons

What is love?

What does it really mean to love someone?

 

What does it mean to love someone...

when you're tired from a long day at work...

you just want to put your feet up in front of the television..

but all they want to do is talk about their day?

 

What does it mean to love someone...

when you have asked them to do the dishes...

repeatedly...

and they have said they will and you have gone to bed...

but the sink is still full in the morning--

yet again!

 

What does it mean to love someone...

when you're exhausted from the pressure and grind of work...

you have taken a week's holiday and you come home... 

only to be presented with a list of jobs that need to be done?

 

What does it mean to love someone...

when the baby's screaming in the next room...

it's two a.m....

it's only three degrees,

you feel like you haven't slept for a month...

and you're tempted to pretend that you're asleep?

 

Too often, within our culture--

and especially under the influence of Hollywood and the cheap romantic novel industry--

we presume that love is a warm gooey-sort of feeling--

a feeling that gives us goose-bumps or makes us weak at the knees.

But love isn't some gushy, sentimental emotion.

Love is hard work.

Love is a way of life.

Love is a deliberately chosen way of life.

Love is a decision to act towards another person in a particular way--

something that we choose to do again, and again, and again.

And, of course, there is a variety of ways in which we could define love...

and any number of qualities or attitudes that we could list.

But, in essence, it really boils down to one thing:

love is adopting an attitude that's focused on the other person.

Love is concentrating on my own responsibilities...

rather than demanding my rights.

Love is respecting our differences...

not expecting or demanding the other person to change.

Love creates a safe space...

where the other person is free to explore who they are...

and to be who they are...

without judgment or the fear of rejection.

Love is seeking what is best for the other person--

no matter what I might be feeling at the time...

no matter what the cost...

no matter what.

Which is why love--

genuine love--

is something that we humans crave instinctively.

Indeed, as studies have shown...

it's something that we need developmentally...

it's something that we need psychologically.

Without love we grow up socially disconnected and emotionally impaired.

Without love, we feel impoverished, even bereft.

When we know love... 

when we experience love...

it can be wonderfully liberating and empowering.

But sadly, so often, it's less than it ought to be.

So often, what we have experienced as love is conditional and dependant.

So often, what we have experienced as love is tied up with pain and loss...

expectations and demands...

criticism and disappointment.

 

And when we turn to consider God--

when we seek to understand God and how God relates to us--

it's only natural that we impose our experiences of love onto God...

for good or for bad.

We experience God's love according to how we have experienced human love--

especially from parents and partners.

And so, for many of us...

we also experience God's love as something that is conditional and dependant... 

something that is constantly needing to be earned.

Even the author of John's Gospel can't quite shake that...

suggesting, somehow, that God's love is tied in to us "believing"...

as if God were some insecure, jealous, petulant lover...

as if God's love were no better than our own.

Rather, I think that the true nature of love is found in the author's unqualified insight:

"God so loved the world that he gave his only Son".

God loves the world so much that God gives us freedom.

God allows us to make bad choices...

to make mistakes;

to muck it all up.

God allows us to desecrate the creation that God calls good;

to foster prejudices against those who were differently formed in God's image--

in colour, creed, culture, or orientation;

God allows us to treat other people as objects that we can use and abuse, manipulate, and belittle--

in an effort to bolster our fragile self-esteem;

God allows us to exploit the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable... 

for the sake of our personal prosperity or the national interest.

God loves us so much that God allows us to mess it all up...

to pursue destructive ends...

to turn away.

But God loves us so much that God never gives up on us.

God doesn't pass judgment on us...

or reject us...

or turn us away.

God loves us so much that God doesn't try to protect us from the bad decisions that we make;

nor does God spare us from the consequences of our choices.

Rather, God loves us so much that God keeps coming to us- 

seeking to woo us back...

yearning to restore the relationship.

And, even though we turn our backs on God and mess everything up...

God is still there... 

waiting...

aching...

hoping that we will learn...

hoping that we will come to our senses...

hoping that we will turn back.

And when humanity didn't turn back-- 

sacramentally and symbolically-- 

God came among us, God became one of us.

And, in the person of Jesus Christ, we experienced the depth of God's love for us--

a love that is willing to give its all...

a love that longs for us to be healed and restored and set free.

Because God loves the world so much, God wants us to start over--

to come to our senses...

to end our self-destructive ways...

to discover the abundance of life and love that we were meant to know...

to be all that we were intended to be.

And when we do turn back--

when we turn from our mistakes...

from our self-inflicted suffering...

and from our self-destructive ways--

when we turn back towards God, we find God already there...

waiting for us with open arms...

waiting with arms stretched out wide in love.

 

And, if we truly knew ourselves to be loved like that...

if we truly knew that love--

deep down...

in the very depth of our beings--

then it would change us.

And, perhaps then, we would begin to love like that as well.

If we truly knew ourselves to be loved, as God loves us...

then, perhaps, we would begin to love openly...

abundantly...

vulnerably...

unconditionally.

If we truly knew ourselves to be loved, as God loves us...

then, perhaps, we would truly allow others the freedom to make mistakes and to grow...

without demand or judgment...

or the fear of rejection.

If we truly knew ourselves to be loved, as God loves us...

then, perhaps, the love of God--

the awesome...

accepting...

affirming...

inclusive...

overwhelming...

limitless...

liberating...

forgiving love of God-- 

might be seen and known and experienced...

through us.

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