Love this Summer
I assume most of you have heard the saying: “Do to others, what you would want them to do to you.” It is actually a restatement of Jesus’ words when he explained that the meaning of life is, “to love God and to love your neighbour as yourself.” This all sounds rather attractive but what does Jesus actually mean by the word “love”? It’s a bit of an unclear word in the English language because you can love your parents and you can love ice cream. And if the word “love” means the exact same thing in both of those cases, your parents are likely going to be disappointed. So what did Jesus mean? The earliest followers of Jesus who wrote the books of the New Testament didn’t learn the meaning of the word love by looking it up in ancient dictionaries. Rather, they looked to the teachings of Jesus and the story of his life to redefine their very concept of “love.” When Jesus was asked about the most important command his response was: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart.” So love for God is the most important thing, but then Jesus quickly followed up saying another command: “To love your neighbour as yourself.” So which is the most important? Loving God or loving your neighbour? Jesus’ answer is “YES”. For Jesus, they’re two sides of the same coin. Your love for God will be expressed by your love for people and vice versa; they’re inseparable.
For Jesus, love is not just a feeling for someone else that happens to you, love is also action. It’s a choice that you make to seek the well-being of other people. Genuine love for God and others means seeking people’s well-being without expecting anything in return and according to Jesus, this kind of generous love reflects the very heartbeat of God. Jesus took this even further. He said that the ultimate standard of authentic love is how well you treat the person that you can’t stand, or in his words, “you shall love your enemy” and do good to them, expecting nothing in return. This is how Jesus actually lived. He showed love for the forgotten ones and towards the end of his life Jesus made himself an enemy of the leaders of his people by pointing out their hypocrisy and corruption. But then, instead of attacking his enemies to overthrow them, he allowed them to kill him. Jesus died for the selfishness and corruption of his enemies because he loved them.
At St John’s Church this summer we will launch a new vision in how we can grow in our love for God and each other. This is because we believe that the Christian faith involves trusting that at the heart of our universe is a God overflowing with love for His world. It also means that the purpose of our existence is to receive this love and then to give it back out to others, creating an environment of others-focused, self-giving love. Why not join in and come along to any of our services this summer and discover more about this deeper meaning of love.