On this Valentine’s Day, it is fitting to discuss a chapter entitled “Loving: the Prayer for Other People.” What does love for one another mean? Does it mean feelings? Does it mean actions? For many, it may mean flowers, candy, jewelry, or a nice meal. Love is one of those words in our language that is hard to “pin down.” It has a lot of positive connotations but it is not definitive or specific.
What does love mean for the practicing Christian? In the Old Testament, it was a part of the religion for those who worshipped the God of Israel. Certainly in the New Testament, Jesus lived a life of love and preached love for others.
It is the most important thing that we can do as followers of Christ.
When Christ died, He not only reconciled us to God, but He also reconciled us one to another. Paul explains in Ephesians 2 that the starting point for reconciliation was the Jew and the Gentile. Christ came to create a “new man” out of these two groups, making peace so hostility would end. The Christian community is supposed to be a community of love and unity.
As Christians, we celebrate the love and unity that is in our community in the Lord’s Supper which is referred to as an agape meal or love feast. This meal serves as a remembrance of Christ’s death and the communion between God and man, as well as man among man. 1st Corinthians 10: 16-17 examines the words of unity: “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.”
In marriage, Christian husbands and wives should practice love and spiritual equality. 1st Peter 3:7 states “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the [physically] weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” To fail to love and respect your wife displeases God and breaks Christ’s command.
If we don’t obey God’s commands and love one another, we have no right to claim the title of “Christian.” The words of John are very clear: “If anyone says, ‘I love you’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” The upshot of this message is this: if you are not expressing love for your Christian brothers and sisters, you have no right to claim that you are a child of God. Prayer which comes from one who is without love is dead.
Love is an amorphous word; it is hard to “put legs on it.” We want to see it, we want to touch it, we want to smell it but it is a feeling that emanates from deep within a person. Maybe that is why we objectify it with the purchase of gifts during Valentine’s Day. We want to give someone something that signifies that we love them. Florists, candy makers and card manufacturers are happy to supply what we need to communicate our feelings but the purchase of an item seems inadequate to express Christian love in the world.
God wants us to come together in unity and acceptance. God wants us to share the single loaf. God wants us to respect one another in marriage. He wants us to have prayers for our brothers and sisters who are in need; prayers that signal our true concern for them.
St. Augustine was asked once “What does love look like?” He replied “It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.”
I think most of us would say that Augustine got it right.
His definition of love provides wonderful insight about the Christian pathway to love, a pathway we should all be taking. A pathway that leads from God through us and heads straight to the needs of our brothers and sisters…