|St John the Evangelist - Giotto|
The theme of love is especially prominent in the Epistle and Gospel for this week, both from John. It is a theme to which contemporary Christians warm very readily since it is relatively ‘theology-lite’, so to speak. If 'God is love', can we not just speak of 'Love' to those who are puzzled or alienated by references to 'God'? Many Christians take this line, but it is very easy for talk of love to amount to little more than the rather thin doctrine that 'we ought to care about other people'. Concern for others is admirable, certainly, but it hardly requires the story of God's Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection to make a case for it. Human decency is enough, surely.
A deeper question, however, is whether love is the animating spirit that informs the world in which we live. Modern materialism makes physical forces and biological processes the ultimate explanatory factors, and leaves us to conceive of happiness as enjoying life to the best of our abilities and helping others to do so. Did Jesus have an enjoyable life? The question seems all wrong somehow. He tells his followers to "abide in love", but this love of life, he says, can find its fullest expression in "laying down one's life for one's friends" -- not ultimate satisfaction, that is to say, but ultimate sacrifice.
|Conversation with God - Nicholas Roerich|
How could that make sense? If the world into which we are born is indifferent (or even hostile) to our deepest attachments and aspirations -- love, justice, beauty, truth -- we must wrest from it what we can while we can, and do so under the constant shadow of our own mortality. But if those things on which our hearts are most deeply fixed lie at the foundation of reality, if they are the things that called us into existence in the first place, then there is a profound harmony between the human spirit and the creative spirit that underlies the world.
'God is love' means love is ultimate, not because we can make it our Ultimate Concern, but because the Eternal Word has made it the spirit that infuses all things. We do not choose God; God has already chosen us.