I am thinking about a question that Will, my now-nine year old, asked to me when he was about, oh, four or so: “Dad, where does love come from?”
Perhaps that’s a good start for my sermonizing on Sunday – keeping it on the simple, four-year-old level. Because it can get so complex, philosophical, abstract when talking about love, no?
When it boils down to this: love comes from somewhere. Where?
Maybe it’s cheating to bring in scripture here, but gosh darn, it is the Word of God. So, here goes. The text for Sunday is 1 John 4:7-21. Study up on it, if you’re so inclined. Absolutely one of my favorite bits of scripture (especially if we can overlook the polemical context in the rest of 1 John). It’s my go-to text for all wedding services I do – that is, if the couple doesn’t prefer the standard 1 Corinthians 13 (wonderful text, but been done). Alas, I digress.
1 John 4 gives a very simple answer about where love comes from. So simple, it’s perhaps obvious. God. The one who is the progenitor of love, and indeed whose very essence is love. That’s where love comes from. (OK, grammar police: from where love comes…).
Here’s the very simple answer about why we love: because we’ve known love from somewhere, namely God. “We love, because God first loved us.”
But, though simple, that too can be rather abstract. How do we know this love? We can’t touch, smell, see God. Surely, we can know that we are loved on a sort of numinous, existential level – somewhere in my soma, my guts, my spirit, I know I’m loved. (One of my favorite quotes, by the way: Victor Hugo: – “The greatest happiness in life is the conviction you are loved.”)
The only way we can know the love of God is through human love. “No one has ever seen God…but if we love…God abides in us.” Perhaps that’s the theme of this whole series about the nature of love. You want to have fulfilling human relationships – mature erotic/romantic ones? Deeply fulfilling friendships? Then, we have to know this primary kind of love, whose source is none other than the divine.
It also works in reverse. You want a taste of divine love? Love another person. That’s the mystery and the paradox.
So, this Sunday’s sermon is on a particular variety of love – a very different kind than the ones we’ve been speaking about, because this kind of love – Agape – does not depend on the desirability of the object. Eros, Philia – though certainly desiring the well-being of the other, still depend on the other somehow being desireable.
Agape on the other hand loves no matter what, no matter how desirable, or schlocky, sinful, ugly the “object” – the person being loved. (Better click on that 1 Corinthians 13 text now for the full definition). This is how God loves. And this is why humans are able to love – because we know somehow this mysterious source from which love comes.
So here’s a question to end on: how have you felt loved? Who imparted that to you? How?
See you Sunday.