“Who can give me a definition of love?” I saw many hands raised. Someone in the congregation was actually very eager to give an answer, a young man and I allowed him to be the first to fire. “Father!” He began, “love is that strong FEELING you have for another person.” “Strong Feeling?” I asked to be sure that I heard him well. Looking at “strong feeling”, a critical mind would begin to examine the attribute “strong” and how long it could hold. Furthermore, feelings are subject to changes and they often depend on moods, I did not accept that definition. There were other attempts like: “love is that appreciation one gives to another”; “love is being kind and caring to another person!” Other definitions continued until one lady said: “father, God is love!”
“God is love! Yes! The apostles John said so (1 John 4:1). But how is God love?” I asked the lady and she could not find an appropriate answer. Going back to the question, it is factually verifiable that love is difficult to define. And it becomes more difficult when one tries to define it without connection with God. In our day and age, what most people call love are merely fleeting series of feelings, excitement, lust, and even illusion. What the lady actually did was to tell us to look for the definition of love in God because His other name is love.
The search for the definition of Love in God will lead us to examining love as one of the characteristics of God. When we talk about God loving us, we are not talking merely about God’s strong feeling, appreciation and all others. We are talking about God’s mercy, kindness, charity, and sacrifice for our sake. So the fundamental basis of love is selflessness which means doing something for another’s sake even at the cost of one’s life.
In the Gospel today (John 15:9-17), our Lord Jesus Christ gave his disciples a commandment which is to love one another as he loved them (and us) (John 15:12). He went further to define true love as sacrificial: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). He went further to qualify the designation “friends” as representing all those who do what he commands and what did he command? That they should love one another!
From our earlier appraisal of the definition of love (as variously seen by numerous people), we understand that love has since being misunderstood and misapplied among us. Lust has been rendered as love, just as fleeting excitement, erratic attraction, mere appreciation, fondness and other emotions that primarily serve the interest of the so-called lover not the loved. A more concrete example is when someone sees an apple that he or she claim to love and goes ahead to eat the apple; where goes the love thereafter? For love to be genuine and divine, it must be for the interest of the loved not that of the lover.
In Jesus Christ we discover the full meaning and expression of love. He came on account of God’s love for us (John 3:16) and suffered and died so that we can have life and be healed (1 Pet. 2:24). From this viewpoint, we understand that love goes beyond all the attributes we give to it. It is not only selfless, it is also sacrificial. In love we discover one important CONSTANT and that is giving (letting go). That means to love is to give (to let go): for instance: “God so loved the world that he GAVE his only Son”. The lover must be ready to let go something of a greater value.
Today in the Gospel Reading, our Lord began his exhortation with the commandment to love and ended with that. We must not there take it lightly. Hence we are called upon to attend to this commandment of loving one another as he loved us.
Practically, this calls for the breaking down of the walls of enmity, the walls of hatred, the walls of apathy, the walls of disunity, the walls of xenophobia and the walls of segregation that has torn families, communities, races, and nations apart. To love is thus not an option but a grave duty we must perform. In fact it is a necessity and we have no excuse not to love as without love we have no business with God.
It will also very pertinent to ask why our Lord was making so much emphasis on: “loving one another as he loved us” and even making it a commandment not a suggestion. The reason is not far from the fact that there is a great incidence of lack of love in our world. Furthermore, the lack of love is brought about by the increase in the rate of wickedness in the world (see Matt.24:12). Looking at this closely too, we discover that people become wicked because self-interest and selfishness that is the simple reason why love is fundamentally selfless.
When our Lord Jesus Christ said love one another, he was thus saying that we should stop being wicked, we should stop being selfish. He was saying that we should adopt utter generosity, care, and kindness to all irrespective of differences of backgrounds and dispositions. This latter we saw very clearly in the First Reading (Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48) when God love reached the Gentiles and they also received the Holy Spirit: “God does not have favourites’ anybody ‘who fears God and does what it right is acceptable to him”. (Acts 10:34-35).
As we launch into the Sixth Sunday of Easter, let us be attentive to the Lord’s command that we must love one another as he loved us. Love is actually the fundamental phenomenon that drives the Christian life. Hence without love there will definitely be no Christianity. The message today is clear, we must love and not hate just as God continuously and continually love us.
Have a blissful Sunday and a wonderful week ahead.