Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God.
1 John 4:7

The readings from John’s epistle and Gospel challenge us to love one another. These two readings imply that we are to live in the shadow of God’s love and make God’s love our own love.

One can link John’s concept and understanding of love to that of Paul’s found in 1 Corinthians Chapter 13. For both Paul and John love is paramount in their scheme of thinking. Love for the brethren is evidence that we are in union with God and that God dwells in us. John teaches that those who are born of God and known by God are the persons who practise love. John says, “God is love.”  This statement describes the character and being of God within the context of love. Since God is love he will be experienced as love. John’s teaching on love is based on his understanding of God’s love as it was revealed in the sending of his Son to be our Saviour. “In this, the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).

God is the author of love.  Christian love is not of our own making; it is given to us by God and has its origins in God who is love. The initiative rests with God who first loved us. Because God first loved us and continues to share his love with us we are obligated to share this love with all God’s people. The writer seems to imply that God’s love can only generate love. Love changes all things and makes life worth living. As the song says, “It’s love, it’s love, it’s love that makes the world go round.”

A word of caution must be sounded. Love in today’s epistle and Gospel must not be confused with sentimental and whimsical love. Here, the author speaks of sacrificial love; a love that has no limits and knows no boundaries. A love that cannot do anything else but love.

Today’s epistle teaches that love is the prerequisite for true discipleship and necessary for community living and witness. Love makes us one with God and our neighbours. Not to love is not to be united to God and not to be in fellowship with our neighbours. When we fail to love we disobey the great commandment to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves. Love is that one ingredient which must season all human relationships if they are to be genuine and heavenly. If we do not love it is impossible to really know and experience God in our lives. If we do not love our brothers our discipleship is compromised and we forfeit our right to be loved by God. We abide in God when we love.

The Christian community is called to be a community of love and to demonstrate this love in all its activities. It is to be the sign of God’s love in a broken world, which needs to experience true love. When the Christian community exercises and lives this true love it becomes the salt of the earth and the light of the nation. It becomes an agent of change and a catalyst of reconciliation among people.

Rightly understood and lived love cements our relationship with God who first loved us and confirms our loyalty to Jesus Christ. A loving relationship with God is essential for establishing meaningful human relationships. The absence of love affects our relationship with God and alienates us from him and our neighbours. It is this love that drives and motivates us to spread the Good news of God’s kingdom. When we love we can approach God with confidence and be assured that he will hear us. There is no fear in this love. God’s love takes away all fear. God’s love frees and liberates us from everything that has the potential to keep and make us slaves of sin.

A loveless world is a dangerous place to live. It creates an environment of strife and bitterness which manifests itself in all kinds of evil. A loveless world leads to a selfish world, which acts unjustly and unkindly. From a Christian perspective the results of a loveless world is seen in the violence that defines our societies, it is seen in the brutal murder of the little girl who was raped and buggered in Trinidad; it is seen in the senseless killing of the taxi driver last week-end; it is seen in those persons who push and sell drugs to our young people, robbing them of a productive and useful life; it is seen in persons who abuse our children physically, mentally and sexually; it is seen in the various kinds of discrimination we practise which rob people of their true dignity and human worth; it seen whenever we fail to love one another.

At the individual level when we fail to love one another we live miserable lives.  It has a negative affect on our personalities and disfigures our true character. When you and I fail to love we become bitter, angry, resentful, aggressive, violent and destructive. We do not see our neighbour as a brother or sister we see him or her as an enemy. We live in the past and the past control our lives, it prevents us from moving forward in life and it stunts our spiritual growth. When we fail to love life is a restless experience. We are never at peace with God, our neighbours and ourselves.

Without love we will always live in an environment of strife, enmity and suspicion.

Christian love asks us to be different from the ordinary people. It calls us to a higher level of human existence. Christian love calls us to be men and women in the true sense of the word and not to be boys and girls. Christian love is always a challenge and at times difficult if not impossible, but we cannot escape it if we are to be counted as true disciples. Christian love can be painful as it invites us to forgive, forget and be reconciled to our enemies.

Today’s epistle has a special message for the church and this parish. Love constitutes our fellowship. The moment we stop loving we cease to be the people of God and the Body of Christ. A loveless church cannot give any hope to our nation; it cannot give any encouragement to our people; it loses its credibility and fails in its witness to God who is love.

We, the people of God must carry out the injunction to love one another so that what was said of the early Christians might be said of us: “See how these Christians love for another.”

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