A27   LOVE

St. John 15.vv.12-17

~ "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another." ~

The secular world around us recognises perhaps more than ever today the need to love and to be loved. Denied an opportunity to love others, many people today find their lives distorted or unfulfilled. I read recently of a bridge between Cannes and Nice where a bunch of flowers had been placed on the parapet of the bridge in a touching memorial to a rich young girl who drove up in her car, got out of the car clutching her dog, and leapt over the bridge to her death leaving behind a note "Nobody loves me except my dog". We must be assured we matter, or there is no value or purpose to life. The need for love begins at conception and persists through life. A certain doctor in a maternity hospital pinned a note on the cot of an ailing little baby, "This baby is to be loved every three hours". What an insight! A Jew once consulted a Rabbi - "Rabbi, what should I do? My son has given up belief in God". The wise Rabbi replied, "Love him more than ever".

We all acknowledge the need to love and be loved, and we are grieved when we hear of those (usually, but not always) suffering neglect through divorce and broken homes; we feel profoundly sorry for the bereaved, neglected, rejected, lonely and unloved, those who are insecure, who lack a sense of "identity", purpose and peace.

What does the Christian have to say to such? First of all, we must say and prove to them "I love you". You are a brother or sister in Christ. We must show that we care. Actions speak louder than words, but we must go on to prove to them that our love is genuine and based upon something or someone much greater than ourselves.

We must assure them that God is love, that love is at the heart of the universe, that love is immortal and eternal. By our optimism we must demonstrate that we know God is in control of the world, that he cares, and cares infinitely, for us his children, that he is a God of compassion entering into and sharing our grief's and sorrows. Karl Barth, probably one of the greatest theologians of our time, was asked at a conference, "What is the greatest theological truth that you know?". The questioner awaited a profound theological exposition from the great man, but received, after a few moments' thought, the reply, "Jesus loves me".

St. Augustine described love in these terms, "It has hands to help others, feet to hasten to the poor and needy, eyes to see misery and want and ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of mankind." What St. Augustine was describing was his perception of Jesus Christ.

The love of Christ was universal, unconditional, understanding and forgiving. It was a love sacrificial to the utmost and vulnerable as all true love must be to rejection, pain and sorrow yet withal filled with an unconquerable good will and joy that no one can take away.

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