Love. Yes, it is romantic. We are attracted sexually and emotionally to the qualities we have longed for in another and also to the attributes we never knew we desired. Yes, it is unconditional. We learn to sacrifice and put the other’s needs before our own with no desire for recompense. Yes, it is chemical. Our bodies sense estrogen, testosterone, and pheromones that unbeknownst to us had been interacting before we even spoke to the other. And yes, Love is God.
God is Love. It has unfortunately become a cliche, fluffy phrase that holds less astonishment than it should. It also breaks down less barriers than it could. As followers of the Christ we have successfully taken something holy and universal in nature and reduced it to a tribal truth that no person outside of our “system” is capable of experiencing in its fullness. This misconception I was taught, and still hear to this day in sermons and conversation, is not what God teaches. This Love has always interacted with creation. He has always revealed Himself in creation.
“What may be known of God is manifest in them for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” Romans 1:19-20
He does not show those He seeks a “lesser” love. He does not hold back Love to those that aren’t “Christians.” Love is a truth. Religions much older than Christianity are aware of this Love and experience it in fullness which draws them to seek Creator. Most of Christian culture is scared to acknowledge truth in other societies and religions. We want it only for our tribe. We don’t want to be lead astray by going down the “all roads lead to God” debacle. (Which is not at all what we are discussing currently.) We put our feet down and say “I believe in biblical truth! Not their truth! They are deceived!” Biblical truth is not different than truth. The sun is the sun. A tree is a tree. Love is Love in any “ism.” The beliefs surrounding these truths may differ, but it does not change Love where you see it. You cannot change truth. You can only acknowledge it and leave the mystery to God. Should we not be excited when we see Love in other places? We should celebrate because that is God interacting with humanity.
Thomas Merton wrote, (though still considered controversial among many):
“The Christian scholar is obligated by his sacred vocation to understand and even preserve the heritage of all the great traditions insofar as they contain truths that cannot be neglected and offer precious insights into Christianity itself.”
Read how beautiful this is. See God interacting with the human tribe:
“Dear friends, 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
“God is love, and love is God.”
–Swami Vivekananda Bengali, Indian Hindu monk
“Just as a mother would protect her only child with her life, even so let one cultivate a boundless love towards all beings”
–Buddhist quote from the Karaniya Metta Sutta
“None of you has faith until he loves for his brother or his neighbor what he loves for himself.”
–Sahih Muslim, Book 1, Number 72
Acknowledging Love wherever it is does in no way diminish the life and purpose of Christ. Somehow through Christ, God has redeemed mankind. The apostles realized that Israel’s messiah was not just for their tribe. His example and his sacrifice was for all of creation. And the process of reconciling creation to its original purpose had begun. God’s love had been present all along and interacting with mankind. And through Christ, that Love is redeeming and reconciling all creation to Himself. A “lesser” love is not being pandered to those not following Christianity. A fullness of Love is drawing all man to Himself.
“What the world needs now is love, sweet love.”
–Hal David, Burt Bacharach
Cliche? Yes. Truth? Yes.