We live within a great paradox that God created otherness which is the source of sin, the source of suffering, but is the prerequisite for Love; to love one another. When we open ourselves to great Love, we also open ourselves to great suffering. Yet, Love has little to do with emotions, sentiments, desires, romance, or adoration. Love has everything to do with intentions – commitment to openness and to serve one another. Love is the full and unconditional commitment to another’s “completion,” to another’s being all that she or he can and wants to be. This is why Paul writes (1 Corinthians 13:4-8):
|Love is patient
Love is kind
Love is not envious
Love is not boastful
Love is not arrogant
Love is not rude
Love does not insist on its own way
Love is not irritable
Love is not resentful
Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but
Love rejoices in the truth
Love bears all things,
Love believes all things
Love hopes all things
Love endures all things
Love never ends
|God is patient
God is kind
God is not envious
God is not boastful
God is not arrogant
God is not rude
God does not insist on her own way
God is not irritable
God is not resentful
God does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but
God rejoices in the truth
God bears all things,
God believes all things
God hopes all things
God endures all things
God never ends
God is love. —1 John 4:8
• We love God by loving others.
Love one another as I have loved you. —John 13:34
• We love God by loving our self.
We love because God first loved us. —1 John 4:19
• Love everything.
In the end, God will be all in all. —1 Corinthians 15:28
• We love God by loving what God loves.
God so loved the world. —John 3:16
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. —John 13:35
Love Is Who You Are
Love is not really an action that you do. Love is what and who you are, in your deepest essence. Love is a place that already exists inside of you, but is also greater than you. That’s the paradox. It’s within you and yet beyond you. This creates a sense of abundance and more-than-enoughness, which is precisely the satisfaction and deep peace of the True Self. You know you’ve found a well that will never go dry, as Jesus says (see John 4:13-14). Your True Self, God’s Love in you, cannot be exhausted.
Material gifts decrease when you give them away. Spiritual gifts, by contrast, increase the more you use them. Yes! You get more love by letting it flow through you, just as modeled by the Trinity. If you love, you will become more loving. If you practice patience, you will become more patient. If you stop the Divine Flow, you will be stopped up (“sin”).
Love is not something you can bargain for, nor is it something you can attain or work up to–because love is your very structural and essential identity–created in the image of the Trinity. When you are living in conscious connection with this Loving Inner Presence, you are in your True Self. God is forever united to this love within you; it is your soul, the part of you that always says yes to God. God always sees God in you–and “cannot disown God’s own self” (2 Timothy 2:13).
Many Christians live with a terrible sense of being rejected, because their religion is basically a worthiness game where no one really wins. That’s precisely not the Good News. It’s bad news. The Gospel will always be misinterpreted by the false self in terms of some kind of climbing or achieving. Since the false self can’t even understand the command to love one’s enemies, it has to disregard the message as naive, which is exactly what most of Christian history has done. Jesus’ rather clear teaching on love of enemies has been consistently ignored by all the mainline churches. Christians have been fighting one war after another, and excluding, torturing, and killing enemies right and left because the false self can never understand the Gospel. Yet we have been baptizing, confirming, giving communion to, and even ordaining false selves throughout our history. It is probably unavoidable, and God surely must be patient.
Once, after I gave an anti-war sermon, a businessman came up to me and said, “Well, Father, maybe in an ideal world. . . .” I know he meant well, but that’s what we’ve done with most of the teaching of Jesus. We interpret his meaning for some ideal world. Of course, the ideal world is never going to come so we can just ignore 99% of the actual teaching of Jesus, as the institutional church (and I too!) have usually done. We concentrate instead on things that Jesus never once talked about, like birth control, homosexuality, and abortion–bodily “sins” because the body can most easily carry shame. We shouldn’t disregard bodily shame or addictions, but they are not the core problem. Jesus focused on issues of power, prestige, and possession–which all of us have largely ignored. I don’t think the church has had intentional bad will. It has simply tried to get the false self to live the Gospel, and that will never work. In other words, we’ve tried to have a church without fundamental transformation. Thus we whittle down the whole Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus’ direct teaching that “he who lives by the sword dies by the sword” (Matthew 26:52); and we look for absolutes in ever new secular places–like the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution which allows us to carry weapons. And this is done by a vast majority of Bible-quoting Christians.