Friday, June 23, 2017

How Can We Love Others the Way God Loves Them?

People in this world need to experience the love of God. 

This is not just an analytical statement of religious discourse. This matters to me, personally; as a Christian this concern has been entrusted to me as a responsibility (see e.g. Matthew 28:19-20). So what can I do?

If I really want people to know God--not just as a theory but as a Presence who changes their lives, who loves them-- then I must love them

The God who is Love, and who became man, wants to use my humanity to show Himself to others first and above all by loving them, unconditionally, as they are, for who they are. He wants me to love them the way He loves them...which is to say, the way He loves me.

This is entirely different from the pretense to a kind of "tolerance" that in fact evades the other person and distances itself from the person. This is not a "relativism" that uses a superficial affirmation of the other as a pretext for remaining closed within myself, thus escaping the challenge of loving and being loved.

This is not any kind of activism that tries to impose a utopian ideology on people or that exhausts itself in a self-affirming display.

Loving means loving. It means giving what I have received. It means not dreaming about how wonderful love is, but actually giving myself, being a gift in this moment, to the person or persons who have been entrusted to me on the path of daily life. 

And if I'm "busy" with things--if I am speaking or writing or communicating on the internet--I must ask myself, "Why am I here? Am I here to give myself, or to build up and enrich my capacity to give? Am I here for love?"

My writing is worthless unless it is an act of giving myself to those I hope will read it.

I realize that most of my readers are already Christians. But those who already know Jesus need to be reminded and sustained by His love. "Love one another as I have loved you" - this is the heart of the enduring grace that is "the Church." And I must resist the temptation to allow "the Church in the abstract" (however glorious and beautiful and wise I may conceive it) to replace my responsibility to give myself right now. 

Christians are called to share this love in the Holy Spirit, and to be His loving presence in the world. However great our faults and failures may be, His love is greater, and it urges us onward to all the places where human beings live.

The whole world is starving for love. And too many people are fooled by counterfeits; they "spends their wages for what is not bread." Therefore, real love entails a communication of the truth. But love addresses itself to the person, and its witness is always a gift, a humbling of one's self, a sacrifice. This is what opens the possibility for the truth to be embraced by the other person.

Still, we find ourselves afflicted with so many obstacles: we have our own daily struggles, we are sick, we are tired, we are stressed out. We must bring all of it to the One who has loved us; entrust the whole mess of ourselves to Him again and again; keep trying, relying on the power of the Holy Spirit, not being discouraged by our own weakness.

Perhaps we feel that our love is only a poor imitation of the love we have received, that our love is all mixed up with self-promotion and vanity. And indeed it is. Let's love anyway. Let's do what we can, and also nourish ourselves continually at the places where we find Him who has loved us.

Indeed, we must let Him love us, through the Church, through the sacraments, through prayer, through our brothers and sisters, through the very truth and goodness of the joys and the sufferings of life. It all belongs to Him, and it is all the work of His great and mysterious love for us and our destiny. 

In His love we will find the strength to give ourselves, and to give Him to others.