“This is my commandment: love one another as I love you” (Jn 15:12).
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 one another. We are not to seek in return, but are to empty and give ourselves away. The return we get is from experiencing the infinite wellspring and source of the Holy Spirit the rises up within us. The more we hold back, the less we receive, the more we give, the more we experience. We are to resist withdrawing our love and assuming a selfish posture that leads to us becoming more like a stagnant pool. Instead, we are to remain open so as to allow the living stream of God’s infinite love to flow through us.
The love Jesus commands cannot be done on the fly. Love is accepting the interruption and choosing to be present. Love means stopping, setting aside our agendas, and accompanying another. Love is also not coercion and manipulation, it is accepting another as they are and where they are. Love is sharing the journey of life together. St Thomas Aquinas has written it best: Love is to will the good of the other as other. This is more than mere emotion, feeling, or sentiment but actually wanting the best for someone else and to rejoice in their becoming fully alive. We are also not a doormat. We hold people accountable – for to love is also to be clear about respecting our’s and another’s dignity.
This practice of love is also not exclusive but universal. Yes, we are to love those in our family, community, place of worship, tribe, political party, and nation, while at the same time we must be willing to go out from our comfort zones and protected bubbles to risk opening ourselves up to those who we feel 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.
A dialogue grounded in love means that we are 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 we are different. When we talk at and over one another, demean, belittle, or are condescending to one another, we dehumanize. In an open dialogue, we begin to encounter the person and the prejudicial caricature we carry begins to dissolve. Instead of keeping each other at arm’s length, we can then learn to embrace and grow from one another. From a place of mutual, loving dialogue, we can recognize and remember again who we are, friends, brothers and sisters on this journey we call life.
Photo: Wolf Den Pow Wow, with my hunka father, Fire Hawk, in late 80’s. He lived and loved life to the full.