“This is my commandment: love one another as I love you” (Jn 15:12).
This is how God created us, to be loved and to love. The love that Jesus is talking about is unconditional and not just relegated to those closest to us, although, hopefully, in our families and friendships is where we first experienced being loved and learned to love in return.
The love that Jesus commands that we are to participate in as his followers, is a going out from, a giving of ourselves to others. We are not to seek in return, but to seek to empty ourselves and to give ourselves away. The return we get is from the infinite well spring and source of the Holy Spirit. The more we hold back, the less we receive, the more we give, the more we receive. We are to be tapped into the living stream, not separated and isolated, so as to become a stagnant pool.
The love Jesus commands cannot be done on the fly. To love is to be present to another. To love is to stop, to put our agendas and thoughts on the side and be willing to accompany another. Love is also not coercion and manipulation, it is accepting another as they are and where they are and sharing the journey of life together. Love, as I have also written before, is as St Thomas Aquinas has written, to will the good of the other as other. This means that we seek to will another’s good. This may mean saying things that others may not want to hear, or guiding them away from actions, relationships, and habits that are detrimental to their highest hope and good, but first and foremost meeting each person where they are and walking with them.
The reality of living in the love of Jesus is not exclusive but universal. We are to love those in our family, community, place of worship, tribe, political party and nation, while at the same time we are not to be limited to our common groups only. We must be willing to go out from our protected spaces to risk to love, to direct our thoughts, words, and actions toward those who are different, those who do not see the world as we see it, and even those we consider our enemies. This does not mean we have to agree or even like someone else, but we are commanded to love, to respect the dignity of the person as our starting point.
We can and ought to state clearly our beliefs, our thoughts and dreams, but also allow others to do the same. In this way, though we may differ in our points of view, we can see how we are much more alike than different. When we talk at and over one another, demean and belittle one another, we dehumanize each other. In an open dialogue, we encounter the person, and instead of keeping each other at arm’s length, we can embrace, learn and grow from one another as friends, as mutual brothers and sisters on this journey we call life.
Photo: Wolf Den Pow Wow, with hunka father, Fire Hawk, in late 80’s.