What is Love in its many manifestations? Why is it that things go so wrong when we lack it?
Posted on 24 March 2016, 11:42
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not LOVE, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” [St Paul: 1 Cor.13] .
What is Love in its many manifestations? Why is it that things go so wrong when we lack it? Why is it such an achievement when we experience it?
The truth is that you and I are participants in an indivisible whole, a Spirit or Mind that is in all, through all and above all… Genesis 1:puts it that we were created in the very “image and likeness” of God, proceeding from free and overflowing love. The Gospel of John calls this creative Spirit of love “Christ the Word”.
With regard to the Christian Bible, Richard Rohr writes: “That overflowing love will be rediscovered and re-experienced by various imperfect people throughout the Jewish and Christian Scriptures.
“The Bible as a whole illustrates through various stories humanity’s objective unity with God, the total gratuity of that love, and unfortunately, our resistance to such an ‘impossibility’“
“I find that many Christians still have no knowledge of the soul’s objective union with God (e.g., 1 John 3:2, 2 Peter 1:4), which all mystics rejoice in or they would not be mystics. Even ministers often fight me on this, quoting Augustine’s “original sin,” Calvin’s “total depravity,” or dear Luther’s “humans are like piles of manure, covered over by Christ.” I am sure they all meant well, but they also dug a pit so deep that many could never climb out or allow themselves to be lifted out. What a shame, literally! Such a negative starting point will not be very effective in creating loving or responsive people.”
Yes, churches make mistakes, and teach wrong things about the God who is Love. They wrongly teach that God is a judge and a punisher, whereas it is we who punish ourselves by our resistance to the “impossibility” that we are children of God, Spirit expressing itself in the physical.
What measures does a good church adopt to help remedy this problem?
It keeps on speaking of the God of love, who forgives the repentant person. It repeats the story of the Prodigal Son, who left his home, taking what he might have later inherited from his father, and then wastes it all in drunken debauchery in a foreign land. Hitting rock bottom he journeys home not hoping for forgiveness, only to be surprised by seeing his father rushing toward him, with open arms. God is like that father, Jesus meant.
Jesus’ message was very simple, whatever you have done wrong, whatever scrape you have got yourself into, don’t be proud, come with all your wrongdoing, like the Prodigal Son, for God’s open arms of love.. and for healing. A simple message, but one that humanity often resists. There are so many temptations to non-love, so much in our society that sanctions non-love, that we often resist being like the Prodigal Son.
If we are lucky we will gain our first experience of love from our mother, when we were first put into her arms after our birth. If we are lucky we will receive love from family and friends. But as little children we tend to be self-centred, not finding it easy to empathise with others.
The young child needs to learn rules about how to behave. Say please, and thank you. When you play, learn to share and take turns, say sorry, and so on.
While there have no doubt been individual people advanced in love, in all societies from the dawn of history, but in general all primitive tribes will have been forced to devise similar rules to govern their relationships. In course of doing so, beliefs as to the wishes and teachings of spirits and gods have been invoked. There will have been trial and error. It was a very long time indeed before there was any form of civilisation, where there were increased possibilities for love.
In these lame sentences I attempt to suggest the contents of a long treatise. But let us consider how recently parts of humanity have espoused the notion that women and men are of equal worth and status, and the prolonged struggle it became a reality. Consider the struggles that had to be undergone before a new understanding of male-female relationships emerged, and a better way of loving each other. Consider the struggles that allowed one person one vote to all adults in a country. How recently this has occurred, and in how few countries. Consider how recent is the idea that the governance of a country is to benefit the poor as well as the rich, that all should receive an education, that there should be universal health care, that nationalism is a thing to be discouraged, that the idea of the world being regarded as a global village gained currency.
Unspeakably terrible things continue to happen in the world, but conditions in which love may grow are improving. It has taken 2000 years for St Paul’s vision of “There is neither Jew nor [foreigner] neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. [Gal.3.28]”.. to be achieved in some measure. It was only in 1948 that there was a Declaration of Universal Human Rights.
Throughout history love has kept the world alive, but how much more love there needs for humanity as a whole to have an inkling of what it means to be a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven!
How many social battles to be fought, how much more education, how much more openness to the channels of love and spirit! Before knowledge could be spread, there had to be books, before the works of the great composers could be widely known, there had to be the printing press. What divine music since then!
How much more open-minded science is required!
It was long before Jesus, that the prophet Habakkuk had this dream for the future: “For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea”
St Paul wrote, “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.…’
The vision in the book of Revelation of the Cubic City of God, the New Jerusalem, let down from heaven.. the heavenly bride… this is another way of expressing the belief, that the destiny of the world (should it survive our present challenges) will be that humanity more nearly as a whole will accept the reality that we are children of God, and that in God we live and move and have our being. Thanks to all the media of communication, TV, Internet, mass tourism, advances in physics, psychic research, the impending collapse of Materialism, we can see possibilities that the vision of the oneness of all things in Spirit will become more widely recognized, and the possibility that the visions of Habakkuk and Paul will be more perceived as a reality: humanity’s objective unity with God.
That is why I say that Love is SUCH a precious achievement!
As an addendum, though, I would like to make one further quote from Richard Rohr:
“God teaches the soul most profoundly through darkness—and not just light! We only need enough light to be able to trust the darkness. Trials and darkness teach us how to trust in a very practical way that a good God is guiding us. I don’t need to be perfectly certain before I take the next step. Now I can trust that even my mistakes will be used in my favor, if I allow them to be. This is a wonderful way to grow in human love too, by the way. Darkness, mistakes, and trials are the supreme teachers. Success really teaches you nothing; it just feels good.
Love is the source and goal, faith is the slow process of getting there, and hope is the willingness to move forward without resolution and closure. And these are indeed, “the three things that last” (1 Corinthians 13:13). People who have these gifts—faith, hope, and love—are indestructible.”
Michael Cocks edits the journal, The Ground of Faith.
Afterlife Teaching From Stephen the Martyr by Michael Cocks is published by White Crow Books and available from Amazon and other bookstores.
His latest book, Into the Wider Dream: Synchronicity in the Witness Box is published by White Crow Books.