The most important part of the listed sayings about love that I posted last week is the consistency of love. Either we are partially loving, loving some of the people around us and manipulating everyone in the guise of love, OR we are totally loving everyone in our lives, no exceptions.
Love is a totally free-flowing positivity towards others that does not discriminate or judge at all the worthiness of the persons before it. If we have experienced God’s love for us, we are loved and forgiven and treated kindly, then God’s love flows through us and out to others. God’s love is offered to everyone without exception. As we experience God’s love, it begins to flow in and through us and out again to others.
In 1 John 4 the writer says, “let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love”[1 John 4:7-8 NIV]. Later in verse 20 he adds that we cannot love God and hate our brother. For once we live in God’s love, we are not capable of hate for any one. I know that brother has been narrowly interpreted as just those who love God in the way that I love God, but the writer of 1 John is saying that love and hate/judgment/preference cannot co-exist.
The tricky part of this teaching, I think, is that it is so hard to accept God’s love for us. We feel unworthy or think we should be perfect to feel that love. We deflect God’s love because we don’t love ourselves. We see our imperfections and judge ourselves. These very human concerns are not God’s concerns. God embraces those who turn their lives towards God. Like the father in the Prodigal Son Parable, God is watching and waiting for us to turn back to open arms of our Divine Father and Mother. When we do, God then offers us that banquet of welcome, not caring at all that we have made mistakes and squandered our inheritance. The minute we turn our faces and lives to God there is all the love in the world for us, welcoming and nurturing and forgiving all that we are.
Then we must accept that we are lovable just as we are, warts and all. We must then see ourselves with the eyes of love, not of judgment. As we learn to do this practice of loving ourselves as God has loved us, then our neediness and judgment and preferences for this person or that or this group or that vanish. Then we are able to love with the love that God showers on us.
Before we accept God’s love for us, we are able to love only a little, because it was mixed in with our neediness, our own fear and distrust of those different in any way from us. Now we experience God’s love flowing in us and through us and out of us towards everyone, just as God loves.