For me, I think the big picture with Jesus is all about love. That verse from John that I keep repeating, “love one another as I have loved you,” is what Jesus is all about, in the big picture. The stories of his life are what illuminate that and teach us that we, too, are both divine spirit and human creation, made in the same love that is in Jesus, and capable of living that love like Jesus. That’s the point of Jesus.
It bears repeating, I think. However you know God, by whatever name, God is love. However you know Jesus, by whatever name, Jesus shows us that love is in us. However you know Spirit, by whatever name, the Spirit moves in us and through us to live that love. Yes, there’s more to it than that, that’s in the details, but, ultimately, it’s about love and love wins. Not easily, but ultimately.
We’ve struggled with love since the beginning. There’s so much that gets in the way, so many ways that seem easier, more instantly rewarding. Despite being an awesome song by the Sidewalk Prophets, “I wanna live like that” isn’t always our first inclination. In fact, we can go quite far the other way in order not to, sometimes even proclaiming that “our way” is The Way. If it’s not love, it’s not. It just isn’t. And even for the earliest followers of Jesus, who called themselves “People of The Way,” it wasn’t easy to follow through.
Paul writes to the community in Corinth about it. “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Cor. 13:4-8)
If those words are familiar, it may be because you’ve heard them at a wedding. 1 Corinthians 13 is the “go to” scripture reading, at least with church weddings. And that makes sense: in a moment, ideally, when we celebrate the love of two people and their commitment to each other in that love, it’s a good moment to remind everyone that love is more than romance and happiness. It’s work. Life-giving, joy-bringing work.
Except, that’s not who Paul wrote this for. He’d helped to establish a community of Jesus’ followers in Corinth – a church, if you like – and it wasn’t going well. It was a community in a city that was very cosmopolitan in it’s day, and the Jesus community would have been made up of people from different social and economic backgrounds, different cultures, different genders, different ages. There was dissension and conflict and they were having trouble loving like Jesus. So Paul wrote this description of love to help them understand want was needed. For them and us.
We could all use this reminder, daily, especially now in a world that’s fractured and broken and hurting. This is the love that listens, learns, understands and heals. This is the love that opens hearts, not only to offer love, but to welcome it, to embrace it, make room for it and be changed by it. This is the love that creates, connects and enriches our lives.