Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Two Inseparable Dimensions of Love

I'm preparing to teach a three day course at Western Connecticut State University on "The Letters of John." This course is part of an annual School of Christian Mission that offers a mixture of religion courses, worship and fellowship for around 200 United Methodists from this region.

There are three Letters of John in the New Testament. The first "letter" is not really a letter, but more of a sermon on the nature of God and of Christian love. The basic message is: God's love for us makes our love for God possible, and our love for God is expressed in love for neighbor.

The link of love of God with love of neighbor is expressed in the strongest terms possible. "Those who say, 'I love God,' and hate their brothers or sisters are liars..." The author goes on to add, "...for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen." (I John 4:20)

The inseparability of loving God and loving our fellow humans is at the core of Christianity. We show our love for God in how we treat our neighbors. While this seems like a simple concept, putting it into daily practice is a complex challenge.

When it comes to love, we need to ask ourselves some hard questions: What does it mean to act in love in every situation? When is "tough love" required? What sacrifices are we called to make in loving others? How can I love someone I don't really like? How is it possible to love an enemy? These questions are not so much answered with words, but with actions.

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