1 Corinthians 13:6-7: “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

“Ben, you’re always running here and there
You feel you’re not wanted anywhere
If you ever look behind and don’t like what you find
There’s something you should know, you’ve got a place to go”
 
(Song lyrics by Don Black / Walter Scharf )

A love song about a rodent pretty much says it all. Love sees things differently – and if you are a pet owner you would probably agree. Pets become endeared to us. Most likely the pet’s lifespan is shorter than ours, and inevitably the day comes when we have to let our four-legged friend go.

Ultimately, whenever we open our hearts and let somebody in, we allow our hearts to be broken. The famous quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson, “’tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” is relevant. Although the pain of loss is difficult to handle, it is love that makes life meaningful.

When God decided to put humans on the map of the history of the universe, I believe He deliberately chose to accept the pain that came with it. If we had an interview with God and asked Him: “Why in the world did you create humans? That really backfired, didn’t it?” – He probably would not agree that inventing humanity was just one great big mistake of His. If that’s the way He felt about us, I don’t think we would still be here. But here we are – still kicking! We are here because we are loved. I am not sure that God would say it this way, but apparently, we are worth the pain.

Whenever we see love acted out, we know that is God’s heartbeat, right there. His love perseveres and so do we. There are a million reasons to become a cynic and give up on love, yet we will soon discover how empty a life that is. Despite of what you and I have been through, as long as we choose life we choose to love again.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3: “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

As a Roman colony in 44 BC, Corinth flourished and became the administrative capital of the Roman province of Achaea. Still today, Corinth is a major road hub and back in the day of the Apostle Paul I imagine it was a cultural melting pot with an influx of visitors from all over the world. Paul’s friends lived in an exciting city teaming with people, some of them brilliant, some of them influential. Apparently, in their daily interactions they couldn’t help but be impressed with certain people’s resumes. They started inviting them over and listened to what they had to say. Some of their advice came to Paul’s attention and it did not sit well with him.

In Paul’s ensuing letter he put things into perspective. In a laundry list of human accomplishments, Paul featured highly talented people who were multi linguist, performed major breakthroughs in scientific research and had a faith that could move mountains – whether this was literally or figuratively speaking is beside the point. Beyond that, these people were willing to sacrifice their lives for a good cause. In a nutshell, Paul was describing Wonder Woman or Superman – and yet, both Superman and Wonder Woman could entirely miss the mark. In his ballad on love Paul painted a vivid picture revealing to the sophisticated Corinthians what truly matters.

Great deeds come from great motivation. As an example, we know that sacrificing one’s life is considered the ultimate expression of altruism – however, self-sacrifice can be marred by cold fanaticism. Terrorist suicidal missions are a glaring example. Heart of the matter is the presence or absence of love in everything we do or refrain from doing.

Original love flows from God. Connected to the Originator of the universe we live a life inspired by His love. Love is real because God is real; love is authentic because God is authentic; and love is the greatest because God is the greatest.

1 Corinthians 13:13: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

1 Samuel 24:19: “When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today.”

Imagine you have a mortal enemy who has been after you with the intention to kill you. Then one day a door of opportunity opens. You are sitting in a cave hiding out with your friends because this person has hunted you down in the desert of En Gedi. Now your enemy steps into your cave to urinate. With his back towards you he is completely in your hands. What would you do? This was David’s situation and do you know what he did? Absolutely nothing! He reached out and cut off the corner of his coat. And once his enemy stepped out of the cave he presented this piece of coat as evidence that he did not wish him any harm, even though his opponent had every intention of killing him.

This story in the first book of Samuel of the Old Testament could be seen as the ABC of love for the enemy. Christ asks us to do something that goes absolutely against the grain: “Love your enemies”, He says. And by asking us to love our enemies Jesus gives our opponent a human face.

Who is your enemy? Have you identified one lately?

In times of war the opposite side is by definition the enemy. And yet even when we have the license to kill to defend our country, killing people is still deeply disturbing to the human psyche, which essentially explains PTSD. “Post-traumatic stress disorder” became a buzzword in the 1970s due to the diagnoses of U.S. military veterans of the Vietnam War.

It is easy to see that we thrive in times of peace. If a profession was assigned to the human race what would it be? Certainly not professional killer – if anything, we are supposed to be professional caretakers. In the first chapter of the Bible God asks us to look after His creation (Genesis 1:28):

God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’”

We are here to procreate, spread out, discover the universe and build something new. Murder not only ends the lives of the people we killed, but also kills our spirit and makes us inhuman. Nobody knows the complete picture of the person we call our enemy. It is detrimental to our health to wish destruction on anybody, even without taking any concrete action. Essentially, ill will turns around and becomes our very own nightmare.

God gives sunlight to both good and evil. It is life giving and inspiring to be generous and forgiving. We are made to bless, not to curse.

Proverbs 21:21: “Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.”

Love can be thorny. Love can hurt. It is very human to look for love in all the wrong places. It is also very human to look for God in all the wrong places. Just as fake friends are a sore disappointment, so are fake gods. 

Here is an open secret: God wants to be found. He will put heaven and hell to work to make it happen. Yes – even hell can be helpful at times. Finding God during life’s darkest hour is not so unusual. Pain can sharpen our senses and help us distinguish between counterfeit and original.

In pursuit of the real deal we will stop dead in our tracks when we have an “aha moment”, when we realize that God exists and that He cares.

True love originates from the Godhead – Three in One. One could say that the Trinity possesses the patent for love. God has the good stuff: Love tried and true; true love. 

We know when we have struck gold. We know when we have found unfailing love.

1 John 4:20-21: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”

Medications often come with side effects, which is why my husband always likes to read the fine print. Well, loving God comes with a side effect too: Our hearts get bigger! Embracing the person next to us, treating animals with respect, caring for our environment are some of the the known side effects of loving the Lord.

As our hearts expand, so expands our horizon. We begin to notice things that we previously had not paid attention to before. We develop empathy and start caring.

How we treat people is important to God, and I believe this is the point the apostle John is trying to make in his letter. If don’t love people, we deny ourselves the opportunity to grow closer to God. We will have to face our fears and past hurts to overcome them. God will help us as we address our issues. He has helped me.

The ripple effect of our love journey goes a long way, even though we are not aware of the blessings we leave in our wake. It may not be easy at all, but it is a wonderful life.

Matthew 22:37-39: “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Love threefold is something extraordinary: The Son loves the Father, the Father loves the Son. The Son loves the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit loves the Son. The Father loves the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit loves the Father, and so forth. The Trinity’s eternal flame is the love they have for one another.

The Trinity is a strange concept to the human mind. We are so much more used to things that come in two: Mom & Dad, Bed & Breakfast, Tom and Jerry – you know what I mean.

In the realm of love, regular math simply does not apply. 1+1=2: right? Well, if two lovers come together the outcome will be multiplication not summation. When lovers mingle, they multiply. Offspring comes out of such unions who will also begin to mingle and multiply; and so the world population has grown exponentially ever since the Trinity erupted into a frenzy of activity, creating this great big universe. Love naturally multiplies.

On the other hand, in the realm of the Trinity, do One and One and One necessarily equal Three? Yes and no, so it seems. The Trinity is known as the “Three in One.” Put that in mathematical logical context, and then instead of an explosion you have sort of an implosion. No one is more “One” than the Trinity is. The Trinity are of one heart and soul, eternally fond of each other.

Love defies all concepts and originates from the Trinity. All life forms are because of the Trinity’s undying enthusiasm and love. And as their creation we are only truly happy if we love just as generously. This may seem preposterous – but in all reality we are wired to love like the Trinity, as Jesus worded so pointedly:

“You must love the Lord your God” (….) and: “Love your neighbor as yourself”

We love God, the source of our being, and our neighbor with all of our heart, because it is good for our heart – with all of our soul, because love is life to our soul – and with our entire mind, because love creates a sound mind.

Our existence is wholly based and only thrives on: love – love – love.

“Close your eyes, give me your hand, darling
Do you feel my heart beating
Do you understand
Do you feel the same
Am I only dreaming
Is this burning an eternal flame?”
      The Bangles

Mark 12:29-31: “Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

Jesus is describing a love circle here. The first commandment is to love the Lord, and the second is equally important: to love your neighbor as yourself. These two love commands are a circle that cannot be broken. The reason being: love is not solitary and love is not exclusive.

1)      Solitary love: Love focused on just one person – could be myself, which is narcissism, could be a person other than myself, which is idolatry

2)      Exclusive love: Love based on conditions – could be withholding love if a person is not up to standard, could be favoritism and club-forming creating insiders and outsiders

Life-giving and productive love exists in God’s unbroken circle: Loving the Lord, loving one’s neighbor, loving oneself. We hear a lot about loving the Lord and loving the neighbor. However, we don’t hear a lot about loving oneself, and yet, it’s an equally important part in the love circle.

Song lyrics by Gerald Goldstein, Linda Creed, Michael William Masser address the issue of self-love in the song “The Greatest Love”, made famous by the late Whitney Houston:

“The greatest love of all is easy to achieve. Learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all”

If you don’t love yourself, you are similar to a broken vessel, and the love God pours into you will never fill you up.  Broken as you are, you cannot contain love and therefore you won’t sufficiently give love. This would be a dysfunctional circle.  Jesus puts this dysfunctional circle back together by being bruised for our transgressions, by being broken so we could be made whole. Prophet Isaiah wrote in chapter 53:5:

“But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.”

Let Jesus restore your self-worth, your dignity, so that the love God wants to pour into you can be contained, so that you can love God and people. John wrote in his first letter to believers (1 John 4:19): “We love each other because he loved us first.”

Let God love you; let God heal you; and be introduced into the Circle of Love!