There’s red, pink, and white hearts everywhere reminding us is time to celebrate love and friendships. I must admit it can be too much. So much, it may give us the feeling we get when we eat too much chocolate. The message of loving kindness can be so overshadowed by overstimulation, that we become numb to its impact.
These days if you walk by my office door you will notice a bumper sticker that reads “ <3 is my religion.” It is not a Valentine’s Day sticker, nor did I get it from a Christian book store. I actually bought it from an online yoga apparel store. In this sticker, a product of globalization, we find fundamental Christian theology wrapped in with eastern meditation practices, and sutras; the teaching words of Buddha.
You may be wondering why this bumper sticker resonates with me; a Christian religious leader and follower of Jesus. Well first, because I uphold our sacred texts as holy and true. On 1 John 4:8 the writer makes a bold statement; “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” I know God is love, because love is love is love… I would not be doing this if it were not because I know for sure that God is love. It is an undeniable truth, that once you come to know personally in your heart, you cannot un-know it!
In the past, people would complain about the many different (sometimes, odd ways) in which love would manifest itself through people. (Think about the 60’s love revolution.) Still today, many question the legitimacy of certain expressions of love. Those disagreements, I suggest, will always be with us. What is troubling for our cause as 21st Century Christians is that we ought to know by now that we have been prolific innovators in the creation of mechanisms to demonstrate our lack of love (hate) for ourselves, our neighbors, humanity in general, and creation; and we ought not to be overly confident. The truth that we can always commit the same sins of the past in the name of Jesus (think about slavery and segregation) ought to be ahead of us as a neon warning flashing light. We are increasingly witnessing overt expressions by groups, who believe there are others who deserve less respect, less rights, less privileges, and therefore less love. This goes against
Christian Holy Scriptures and it blatantly defies Jesus’ teachings. Our task, as commanded by Jesus, is to be intentionally engaged in creating new and fresh expressions of love. God’s creative genius is unleashed when live love, because if love is our project then God is in it!
Second, this “ <3 is my religion” bumper sticker summarizes my theology because God, who is love, is not something I do on Sundays religiously. Yes, Christianity is a religion, that is, a belief system of faith and worship. But love is what I strive to do religiously every day! Love is who I try to be. Love is how I practice my faith. Bringing Christ to the world cannot be done any other way if it’s not through the language of love.
When challenged by the scribes who asked “Which commandment is the first of all?”, Jesus responded “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Jesus now famous words are drowned by thin-skinned politics, sugary-sweet versions of Christianity, and the strong hold acquisition culture has on our hearts, minimizing their impact on how we live love. Let me reassure you; Jesus was not philosophizing about this love thing. He really, really meant it. And he meant it not the be words written on cute sparkly cards that warm our hearts when we want to feel good about ourselves. No words are really needed, Jesus demands that we act upon it! Love ought to be the only language of Christianity. Any other narrative that is not love, is it not Christian. After all, Jesus was very clear when he said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
In which ways can we reconfirm our commitment to be a blessing to someone today…and every day for God’s glory? Who’s lives will be changed because we’ve decided to side with love in all the places Jesus called us to be? The challenge is before us, and the need is greater than ever. God who is love counts on us!
With You On the Journey,