Love is All You Need

by Pastor Heath Howe, Family Ministries

Whenever I think about the month of February, I think about love.  There's the obvious reason, Valentine's Day, which begs me to think about romantic love.  I day dream about my endless love for my husband, David, and how blessed I am to share a life with him.  It is also the birthday month of my mom so the month invites me to remember the gift of a mother's love, hers for me and me for my own children.  My stepfather's birthday is in February and he is quite possibly the best grandfather ever so naturally I think about the blessing of passing love down from one generation to the next.  This month is also black history month and so I tend to read poems or quotes by Mia Angelou and Sojourner Truth who remind me that love walks hand-in-hand with courage and truth.  Their words call me to join the walk.

This year I find myself wondering about Christian love.  Now, as I type this, I hear the words from an old favorite, "They will know we are Christian's by our love, by our love.  Yes, they will know we are Christian's by our love."  Well, what does that Love look like?  In many ways it is seen in romantic love, love for children, and it can be bound with courage, truth, and other virtues.  I am sure of that.  But if St. Paul is right and the greatest of all the gifts is Love, well then what does that mean for those of us who follow Christ?  How is the Love we share with the world different, unique, holy?

Perhaps the first part of the answer comes in knowing from where the Love comes God.  We do not generate it.  We simply get to receive it.  And it is more than a warm feeling, isn't it?  It is a warm feeling that comes from being truly known, adored, and seen.  Jesus knew this sort of intimate Love, given to us by God, and when we look at his life we see how to give that Love back.  It is in how we treat our spouses, our children, our society.  It is also in how we treat ourselves.  When we know that Love comes from God, we are not nearly as demanding or needy in any of our relationships.  They are not the Love source.  God is.  Those relationships are places where we can receive the Love God provides and where we can give it back.

A second part of the answer to what Christian Love looks like is in what it does.  It does not seem to bring forth division, a sense of who is right and who is wrong. As Paul tells us in his first letter to the Corinthians love is not arrogant or rude. It is not concerned only with self. Instead it brings about wholeness.  When the Love we are given from God is shared then community is built.  We show up as Christ did.  We see the person and not the wound.  We hear the cry and not the anger.  We touch the touchable.  We love the forgotten and unforgiveable. We will stand for nothing less than Love for all, even those who sin against us.  And we do this freely, easily, and with great courage.  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. described the power of this sort of Love in a Christmas Eve sermon he gave in 1967.  He writes,  

"I've seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and I've seen hate on the faces of too many sheriffs, too many white citizens' councilors, and too many Klansmen of the South to want to hate, myself; and every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear. Somehow we must be able to stand up before our most bitter opponents and say: "We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws and abide by the unjust system, because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good, and so throw us in jail and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and, as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hour and drag us out on some wayside road and leave us half-dead as you beat us, and we will still love you. Send your propaganda agents around the country, and make it appear that we are not fit, culturally and otherwise, for integration, and we'll still love you. But be assured that we'll wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will so appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory."

Wow. He preached this on Christmas Eve, perhaps the most romantic night of the year. That's the night when children beam and families join together. Christmas Eve is the night when the sanctuary is so thick with Hope we can almost see it. On that holy night Martin Luther King preaches about this kind of Love? Of course. After all, Love is about to be born, and because of him, God's Love incarnate, we are never the same.

The Love God gives us in Christ frees us.  It frees us up to love ourselves and opens our souls so that we know how to love another so that all are free.

If Love calls you to romance this month, enjoy!  If Love moves you closer to children or invites you to reach out to a family member or friend, relish it.  If Love calls you to great acts remember courage and truth walk with you.  If Love calls you to something else entirely, go!  Take in this Love that God has freely given us.  Look to Christ to show you how to use this precious gift and then...live.  Live freely as God's own beloved child.