Love characterizes Christian action. It is the way of the Church, the Way to the Kingdom, and the Way of the Kingdom. In fact, it could be considered the Way of God, the logos that John says makes the world go round.
It is first the Way of God’s Church. The Beloved Apostle says the world will know we are Christ’s people by our love (John 13: 35). Paul describes this love within the community as not insisting on our own way, but rather co-operating with others in God’s saving mission. Lately some of us have used unity as an excuse for avoiding responsibility for crimes. Paul was calling for a quite different understanding. His would encourage frequent discussions about how our diverse gifts complement each other in a division of labor.
Because this necessitates God’s help every step along the way, Christians have always gathered to receive the means of grace. We speak God’s word, baptize initiates, and share Jesus’ meal so God might pour his love into our hearts. We share our lives, constantly addressing one another as “beloved”.
Second, love is the Way to the Kingdom. Spreading the Gospel is not a means for increasing membership rolls or encouraging people to offer up some kind of Jesus Prayer. It is inviting all people to practice the loving relationships that heal God’s creation. The New Testament describes the love we extend to those outside the community as “returning good for evil”, recognizing love is the only way to make enemies into friends for God and ourselves.
And third, love is the Way of the Kingdom. I Corinthians 13 assures us love never ends. The love feasts in the future Kingdom will welcome all into the loving relationship enjoyed by the three persons of the Trinity. Long ago the Old Testament recognized that salvation is to live as God lives. We worship a God “who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing”. The passage continues calling us to follow God’s lead as we, too, love even strangers (Deuteronomy 10: 12-22).
Last week I mentioned God’s people took care to express the radical features of this love, sometimes using special words such as the Greek agape or the King James’ “charity; sometimes using appropriate adjectives. Lupe suggested the Latin caritas might be another option in our time. However we do it, we want to emphasize that it is freely given grace and unconditional commitment.
This brings us to the end of our discussion of faith, hope, and love as the classic summary of the Christian life. Our faith in the God of the Bible’s story and our hope that He will fulfill the promises Jesus makes gives us the courage to love as much as we are able as we await the kingdom when all shall delight in love’s beauty.
I am going to take a break for a few weeks and then return July 6 with a completely different approach. I think you’ll find it very informative in a couple ways. First, it will give some insight into how our young people regard the faith. For decades my wife and I have hosted regular dinners and reading groups for thirty plus high school students, 15 to 20 Young Adults, and about 20 college students. At the end of their meeting, each group picks the topic they want to discuss the next time. The posts for our next class will be the one page papers I prepared as foundations for these discussions. Because all three groups usually want to discuss contemporary issues, the second benefit will be to compare ideas about “Faith behind the Headlines”. In hope that this might incite more discussion, Scott had updated the site making it easier to comment.