One song I will not forget easily is Millie Jackson’s “love is a dangerous game to play if you don’t play the rules”. My first encounter with the song was many years ago when I was still in primary school. A friend from my neighbourhood invited me for the birthday of his most elderly brother who was then in his early twenties. It was a very interesting outing and I did lots of Michael Jackson dance to the admiration of all.
At a point the Disc Jockey (DJ) went soft and brought in some soul and R&B. The first was Mille Jackson’s “love is a dangerous game”! Instantly all the grown-up boys and girls stood up to slow-dance. At that point all the small children, including my friend and I and others, were asked to leave the party room and the door was shut behind us. As I walked down to our house my little mind was very curious about our eviction from the party and particularly when the song “love is a dangerous game featured. I imagined how dangerous love could be and wondered what the rules were.
Later in life I sat down to listen to the music over and over again with a more critical and broad perspective and I discovered that Millie Jackson was not very right because from my understanding love is a wonderful life to live (not a game to play) if one lives by the rules. In fact we can reformulate the epoch-making song and have it thus: “love is wonderful life to live only if you live by the rules!” The rules of love was not exhaustively provided by Millie Jackson’s song but our Lord Jesus Christ made them explicit for us today in his discourse on love.
The gospel periscope presents us with one of the major teachings of our Lord Jesus which he gave during the last supper with the twelve. The last words of a dying man in most African communities and beyond are seen as sacrosanct and binding on those to whom they are addressed. In this context our Lord Jesus Christ chose to dwell on the theme of love before his arrest and eventual execution. Notably he did not just jump into the discourse on love. He began by demonstrating his idea of love by washing the feet of the apostles thereby expounding the rules that govern authentic love which includes humility, selflessness, care, sacrifice and fellow feeling.
Before the Passover meal with the twelve he was asked to define the greatest commandment of all by a Pharisee-lawyer (Matt. 22:34-39) and he said (vs 37):
You SHALL love the LORD your GOD with ALL your HEART with ALL your SOUL and with ALL your MIND and the second is like it; you SHALL love your NEIGHBOUR as YOURSELF.
This passage is for me very instructive because of the deep significance as well as its ponderable resonance with the gospel passage of today. Our lord began by saying that the greatest commandment entails that one “SHALL love the Lord”. This is not a matter of choice or makeshift. It is actually what one is required or obligated to do. It has the same force like when in the commandment God gave to Moses (Exodus 20:3) we hear: “You shall have no other gods before me”.
Furthermore the passage provides that this love must be given with ALL of one’s HEART, SOUL and MIND. This means that the love must be given fully and without reservation. When you remove HEART, SOUL and MIND from a person nothing significant is left. Next, our Lord Jesus Christ denoted that we ought to love our neighbours as ourselves. If we all give God ALL our HEARTS, SOUL and MIND in love then loving each other is made easy because ALL our important components have been given to God and in God’s hands they shall meet and become powerfully linked. The dearth of love in our day and age in on account of the fact we have actually not given God ALL.
Sitting with the apostles today at table during the last supper our Lord Jesus Christ asked them to love one another as he loved them. He loved them to the end (John 13) and went further to demonstrate this lover by taking a subordinate position to wash and clean their feet. This is what love actually entails; being able to be at the service of one another unconditionally. Celine Dion was right when in one of her legendry songs she said: (note that the words in bracket are mine)
- Love doesn’t ask why
(it flows for its sake)
- it speaks from the heart
(not from the brain)
- And never explains
(the only reason for love is love)
- Don’t you know that love
- Doesn’t think twice
(no calculation of gains and losses)
- It come all at once
(it flows naturally and spontaneously)
- From a distance
(it has no barrier)
Before ending the teaching on love our Lord Jesus Christ admonished the apostle to let love to saturate them to the extent that when people encounter them they will immediately recognize them as his disciples. (This eventually happened at Antioch in Syria (Act 11:26) where they were first called Christians).Jesus was from this proposing the fact that love should be an identity which the disciples should bear wherever they are seen. Love becomes then a Christian badge or identity card which each and every Christian must carry around all the time.
Today we have a divine injunction to love or we face the misfortune of losing. To love is to replicate and represent God for as the scripture says God is love (1Jn.4:8). The world is lacking love because it does not know nor understand God (Hosea 4:6).Today families are divided, communities are running amok and nations are in turmoil because of the absence of love. We cannot truly love when we are more concerned about what becomes of us.
We cannot genuinely love when we are more concerned about our convenience. Our love for God must express itself in our love for one another. That was why our St. John said “if you say you love God but have your neighbour you are a liar” (1 John.4:20).Love is more than a noun (what we say) it is a verb that indicates what we do. Today we go home with the message that to love is a must and to hate is forbidden. Love is actually the key that will open the door that will lead us into the kingdom of God. For this reason St. Paul admonished that if we have every possible gift of outstanding character but lack love we are fundamentally empty and it makes no sense at all (1 Cor.13:1-3).
Have a wonderful Sunday and may the love of God rule your life.