I suppose everyone on this planet asks themselves, with varying degrees of intensity, commitment, and integrity, the question “what is love?”
It occurs to me that it is presumptuous to even attempt to answer such a question. Any such attempt is doomed to being incomplete, if it’s not just spitting into the wind. Nevertheless, I will take yet another shot at it, having done so before in February of 2019.
Love is, among other things, a state of mind, even a state of existence. Call it love, agape, charity, or the pure love of Christ, it is the state of mind where one extends the assumption of virtue, honesty, divinity, kindness, compassion, empathy, sympathy, grace, good intent, peace, generosity, even perfection to all individuals, all beings…to all creation. Love assumes that all beings are doing all they can to “fulfill the measure of their creation”, and that the measure of that creation is pure, perfect, and filled with light. Even if that person thinks themselves to be lost, struggling, or imperfect, we love the perfection that lies within; the perfection that is the true self, the divine self.
I must first love myself in this way, and then I can love others in the same way. I cannot love others, including God, without first loving myself.
Such a state of mind can be, most certainly will be, manifested by actions that are often referred to as “love, the action word”, but as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13 of the bible, such actions not derived from the state of mind, from “charity” are as tinkling brass and a sounding cymbal.
Oh, and love is unconditional. Love that is not unconditional is not love. It is something else, but it is not love. A contract perhaps. “As long as you please me, I will love you.” I cannot love only certain aspects of a person, or certain behaviors. I must accept the whole package – perceive and receive the whole package with grace– or it is not love.
And there is only one covenant between God and man. Guess what that is. Yep – I will always love you. Unconditionally. No ifs, ands, or buts. It’s not “I’ll love you if you love me, or if you act in a certain way”. It’s “I will love you always, completely, unconditionally”. Any other covenant is a substitute for the real thing, a pointer, an ordinance, a stop gap measure until the real thing is realized and received.
Today I realized something new. I cannot love someone completely without loving everyone and everything that they love.
I cannot fully love my wife without loving her children. I cannot fully love my children or my friendswithout loving their spouses, their children, their friends.
I cannot love Jesus without loving all that Jesus loves. Last I checked, it is commonly believed that Jesus the Christ loves everyone, so that’s a pretty sweeping, iron-clad concept.
And I cannot love God without loving all of creation.
Think about that. If I love someone else, and all that they love, and if they extend that completeness throughout their own web of relationships, what do we end up with? We have a complete, perfect, unbroken oneness of love – the kind of oneness of which Jesus spoke in John 17 of the bible. Such is the Kingdom of Heaven – which Jesus said “is within you”. This is the concept of Zion, the New Jerusalem, the New Earth.
And what prevents us from living this state of existence, this state of love? Fear and all of its derivatives. These include jealousy, judgment, guilt, contention, control, the need to be “right”. I’m sure you can think if many more. Pretty much anything that prompts me to not love another person and that they love – unconditionally – is the result of some sort of fear.
Learning to recognize these things in ourselves, and to let go of them, is the ultimate in repentance. Like the substitute covenants, there is value in substitute repentance, but eventually, if we desire the Kingdom of Heaven, we must recognize the things that stand in the way, and slowly, gradually…peacefully and without guilt or condemnation…begin to weed them out and reject them.
This is the message of the gospel – even of all true religion – not just Christianity – before it becomes polluted by our fears, jealousies, judgment, etc. This is the ministry of Jesus. This is what it means to believe in Christ – to take upon ourselves the name of Christ. This is the name of Christ, the nature of Christ.
To love unconditionally, completely, in an extended web of grace, is the universal religion.