“For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
My maternal grandparents are evidence that opposites attract. My grandfather was a tall athletic man, an engineer by trade, who credited my grandmother and the U.S. Army for making him the man he ultimately became. My grandmother, on the other hand, was a petite and vivacious Southern belle. One of my grandparent’s relational “shticks” would take place when my grandmother would see a pretty dress and say, “I just love that dress,” or remark after dinner at a restaurant that “I just love that dessert!” My grandfather would always groan and say, “You can’t love that dress/hat/entrée/dessert! It’s an inanimate object!”
Grandad was technically right, of course. Love is not a mere philosophical concept, a feeling or an oftentimes limited, hormonally-induced euphoria. No, love is concrete and committed action, a verb more often than a noun. And there is an implied relationship when speaking about love. Love always is directed toward a “someone” or “someones.” As in “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” where we seek to outdo one another in being servants to others. In responding to this command to “love your neighbor as yourself,” note also that love is multi-directional: it has an inward focus on self which enables one to love externally, both actions only possible because of Divine Love. (1 John 4:19)
Love requires enfleshment. God took on human flesh because of love. The Incarnation is the greatest act of love ever known, ever enacted. It required God to empty Godself to take on flesh. And in following His example, we continue to put flesh on Divine Love. (1 John 4:12b)
Love is transformational. Not just for our shape-shifting God who became human in the form of Jesus of Nazareth, but for those who encounter God or God’s agents in this world as well. As we grow in love for others by offering tangible evidence of God’s love for us and everyone else, love changes us. Love makes us patient and kind. Love enfleshed is not envious, boastful, arrogant or rude. (1 Cor 13:4-5a) Love is expansive, stretching us, helping us grow more and more into the likeness of the God who created us all for love.