“The greatest of these is love.” As I have been planning these essays, Paul’s words keep coming back to me. “The greatest of these is love.” We left our normal lives in the USA because of love. We thought we knew what love was. We thought the way we live should look different because of love.
After five years, our understanding of Love has changed. I expect in another five years our understanding will have changed some more. “God is love.” I John 4:8. If God is love, then love is God. What does it mean to love Love with all your heart, soul, mind and strength? What does it mean to love your neighbor who carries the image and likeness of Love? Who is your neighbor? How do you love yourself? How do you love the image and likeness of Love that is you? How can you love your neighbor if you don’t love yourself? It seems the further we walk on this journey the more that Love opens our eyes to see there is more here than we could have imagined, making our destination seem farther away but also making our journey more delightful.
It seems that every week more perspective comes when we consider Love and what it looks like in the world around us. Recently for me, He has been continuing to open my eyes to how easy it is to dishonor and devalue the victims of systemic injustice. We can create a perceived hierarchy that sees them as something less which is the very thing we are trying not to do. We can begin to believe they can only become better through our formula or with our help. We can make them dependent on us so we can feel self-important rather than calling out the divine image within that would give them equality and significance.
It is so difficult to truly help someone without relationship and cultivating a true relationship that isn’t built on giver and receiver that crosses the economic divide is rare. Those societal structures are all some of us have ever known. Love is calling us to tear down the walls. He wants to destroy the us-and-them paradigm leaving only we. He wants us all to have the privilege of giving and receiving. We are learning that when we encourage everyone to bring their contribution to the whole that it awakens the dignity inside. This is especially true of those who have been programmed only to take handouts. We don’t give dignity or empower. We call out the dignity and power that is already within, squashed by the system of power and oppression.
This is an internal process as much as it is an external one. I have parts within me that I need to call out the dignity and power in. Recently I was meeting with Jesus and I felt He was calling me to the table set before me in the presence of my enemies. This was exciting. How cool to come to that table? My next thought was, “Who are my enemies?” I don’t have enemies. I love everyone. But I felt Jesus was asking me to invite my enemies to the table. I was supposed to befriend my enemies, accept them and make peace. Then the bomb dropped. My enemies are the parts of me that I am ashamed of, the areas of my life that I have cursed over and over because they aren’t “good” enough, the nakedness that I am trying to hide behind the fig leaf. I am my own enemy. How many times have I declared my hate and disgust for myself?
I have heard it said that you cannot change what you do not love. Love is showing me that is true. He is revealing that Jesus only operated out of love. When we look at what Jesus did, we see power. We see authority. We see control. I believe Holy Spirit is telling me that Jesus didn’t force the wind and the waves to stop. They willingly stopped for Him because they understood the depth of His love for them.
I find it easy to chase power, authority and control so that miracles can happen and lives can be changed. Love is calling us higher. He is saying the greater works can only be done through Love. We will not complete mankind’s mandate and bring true transformation without the level of love that Jesus has.
Love is calling us to “Arise and Shine”. Will we answer the call? Will we love our fallenness and brokenness into wholeness? When we truly love ourselves, will we then be able to truly love our neighbor? Will we love the Lord our God with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength because now our hearts, minds, souls and strengths are whole? We have the opportunity to transform the world.
Arise and Shine because the greatest of these is Love.