Love, by its very nature, is outgoing and in search of another. We are built to love, and so God’s command to love him and to love our neighbor is a command that would be similar to saying to a car, “You must provide transportation.” That’s what a car is designed for. The command is superfluous.
Likewise, human beings were created to love and be loved. First we are to love God. Second we are to love another person. The two commands are not separate, for the other person is created in God’s image and therefore to love the other person is also to love an image of God. Loving God must also result in the love of another person because God creates others out of love and is constantly looking to the good of his creatures. Therefore, if we would love God, we must naturally love what he creates.
Everything. Everything else flows from these two commandments. So Christ the Lord says, “These are the two commandments: Love God and Love your neighbor. All the law and the prophets hangs on these two.” Yes.
The problem therefore, and what we call “sin”, is the distortion or the destruction or the denial of love. We distort love by loving the wrong things in the wrong way or the wrong order. We love the pleasure of sex but deny the procreative aspect. We love the possession of belongings rather than enjoying their proper use. We love others for the status they bring us or the compliments they give us or the power we get from controlling them. These are a few ways we distort love.
We destroy love by refusing to worship God, but detracting and gossiping about others, but planning their downfall and repudiating their existence. So we hate others rather than loving them.
We deny love when it is offered to us or we deny our call to love others by taking refuge in our small and selfish worlds. We would rather be alone than to take the trouble and the expense of loving others. We retreat into our loneliness and our private hell rather than enter the heaven of love.
Finally, we must admit that these three demons–the distortion, the destruction and the denial of love–also bring death. They must bring death because all three lead ultimately to violence. When I distort love enough it leads me to violence because to distort anything is to twist it and change it and manipulate it into something it never was, and this is violence and death.
To destroy love and to deny love also leads to death because if we destroy and deny love eventually we will be required to kill either ourselves or that other person or even God if we could.
This death we bring into the world is murder. Of course it turns into actual bloodshed in murder, abortion, war, genocide, torture and every kind of cruelty, but there are other forms of murder. Tearing people down, destroying their reputation, spreading rumors, negatively criticizing, constantly complaining–these are subtle forms of violence, distortion, denial and destruction of love nonetheless, and if we could see the harm it does in visual forms we would be horrified at our own brutality.
But where can we find the love for which we were created? There is a dialogue,
“The Scriptures say, ‘Perfect love casts out fear.’ ”
“But what am I afraid of?”
This perfect love is a gift. We pray for it at Pentecost and sing the hymn, “Come Down O Love Divine, Fill Thou this soul of mine and visit it with thine own ardor glowing.”
So I lay before myself and before you a choice: Love or Death. Death or Life.
Ask for this gift of perfect Love, but be prepared for the whirlwind and the fire. It will unwind the distorted loves in your life. It will burn up the chaff and stubble. It will melt your hardened hateful heart. It will make you open and vulnerable, humble and suffering.
Is that really what you want?