The following is the link to our reading this morning:
Love. It is a word that we use all the time. I love your dress. I love chocolate. I love you. I typed the word into Google and got 7,170,000,000 results. We heard it twice this morning in our Gospel reading. It is a common word, a well-known word, but what does it mean? What is love?
It is difficult to define isn’t it? It is so familiar, so commonplace to use the word, and yet saying what love is so very difficult. It is almost impossible to define. And after thousands of years of working on love, it never seems to come any easier for us. It can be hard to love those people we want to love—our family and friends. These people should be easy to love. But often we don’t show them love. And now in our Gospel reading for today we have Jesus telling us that we are to love not only those we want to love, but also we are to love God with all our heart, soul and mind and we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. And by the way—our neighbor is not just the person who lives next door to us, or just the people we live with, or just the people we like. Our neighbor is any human being our life touches. Our neighbor is not just those people physically close to us. Our neighbor is in the car in the lane next to us who we cut off when changing lanes on the highway. Our neighbor is the person working in a call center in India who takes our customer service call at 2 am in the morning. Our neighbor is the Chinese woman who works 12 hour days in a disgusting sweatshop to sew together the pants we are wearing. And Jesus says we are supposed to show to all these people and to God this word that we can barely define.
The supreme example of love is Jesus Christ. God sent his son Jesus because he loved us. Throughout the Gospels we see example upon example of love in Jesus’ life. He stands up for the poor and the outcast. He heals the sick. He eats with those whom society says he shouldn’t eat. He challenges those in power whose actions are keeping the poor, poor—the sick, sick—the outcast, outcast. And it is for all these sacrificial loving actions that he is killed. Jesus was no doormat. Nobody abused or stepped on him. But he consistently put other’s needs before his own. And he did this to the very end. Jesus was killed because he stood up for the least—because he stood up and challenged those in power on behalf of those who had no power. And Jesus calls us to love our neighbor with that same kind of love—with a love that is made up of action not feelings. Jesus loved us human beings when we didn’t deserve his love, when we weren’t too loveable, simply because we needed his love. This is true love. This is God’s love. It is about giving without expecting to get anything in return. It is especially to love when you don’t have cozy, warm feelings in your heart toward that other person. It is to love when you don’t even know the other person and to love them when loving them will cause you to have to change yourself or something in your own life.