Love has been on my mind a lot lately. It's kind of the thing that theologically progressive Christian pastors hang their hat on when interpreting the Scripture. It also happens to be the thing that Augustine hung his hat on when interpreting the Scripture. In his book On Christian Doctrine he said, “The fulfillment and end of Scripture is the love of God and our neighbor.” This two-fold love is the window in which I choose to read the Bible through when preparing for a sermon, Bible Study or personal meditation
If you have been following the lectionary we are currently reading 1 John which is packed full of the topic of love. These texts have left me perplexed, challenged, and wondering what exactly does it mean to incarnate love? Then I think of John 3:16 when the author writes, “For God so loved the world….” The world in Greek here is cosmos, which doesn’t mean only an elect group of people but cosmos is an all-encompassing word, which means everything in this universe. One definition of cosmos I found that I particularly like says that cosmos means “the ungodly multitude”. Ah yes, for God so loved the ungodly multitude as well as those pretending to be godlier than they are. God loves all and God is love, period.
But again, what exactly does it mean to incarnate love in our daily lives. Here I look to 1 Corinthians 13 to give me an idea of some descriptors of love. I am reminded when I read this chapter that love is expansive, detailed, and quite aware of the community and not just the individual. Which leads me to believe that I probably fit more under “the ungodly multitude” definition of cosmos because the way I love doesn’t always match up with the way 1 Corinthians 13 suggests what love is.
Paul Tillich says that the first duty of love is to listen. This is powerful. Especially as a New Yorker where people rarely give you their full attention (and truth be told I rarely offer my full attention) - it is counter-cultural to listen to someone. When I listen to someone and their story I am choosing to say I am for you and I am making the movement of solidarity with you. No wonder it’s hard for us to love people because we are often so concerned with drawing lines of who is in and who is out - but that’s not incarnating love. Love is the movement of solidarity. Jesus made the movement of solidarity with us; Jesus incarnates love. That’s whom I want to follow.
I often say how much I love New York City – I do, I really do love it here. This video reminds me of John 3:16 and all the types of people God loves and thus all the types of people I should love. Granted, I fail royally at loving the way God loves. And yet I rest assured that God, who is love, never does fail. God sustains it all. I think if Paul Tillich is right, then God is listening to all these stories that are represented in this video. If God is listening to these stories then maybe God is making the movement of solidarity with each of them. Maybe that is what it means to enflesh the hermeneutic of love -- to make the movement of solidarity with those around us.