god is love. this sentence is so profound and full of meaning that i think it is often over looked.
Googling the word love gives you varying definitions, examples from different cultures and religious groups centered around concepts of love. like, selfless love of humanity (mahayana buddhism,) or the beautiful concept of Sufism, where love is a projection of the essence of God to the universe.
i often separate myself from religion because i think that religion places god in a box and constrains our thoughts relating to god specifically to the wrapping of that particular box. so that your ideas of god and the practice of relgion is sometimes bound to whatever religion and text you hold to be true.
but that sentence, god is love, i think removes god from that box. so that if you worship god, regardless of the box you uphold, your life..your attitude, character and behavior..should be a reflection of love. as god is love.
in 1 John 4:8, he says that "whoever does not love does not know god, because god is love (new international version).
often times, we think of love as just based on affection between two people, a romantic and passionate concept of love. sometimes we have to be reminded that "love exists outside of the affection between two people" (a quote from me).
when pastors talk about this topic in church they often mention that greek has like five different words for love (agape, eros, philia, storge and xenia). c.s. lewis, the christian author (chronicles of narnia, etc.) wrote a book about four of them called the four loves. how many people do you know who know what those words mean?
about a month or so ago, i went on a first date with a guy and the topic of homosexuals came up. he was very uncharitable and he was very comfortable being that way because of his religious box.
i often see people with bumper stickers and bracelets and necklaces with WWJD on it (what would jesus do). a very nice concept. but sometimes if you get those same people talking about a hot button topic (homosexuality, abortion, sometimes even welfare moms, etc.) and you might witness an example of what jesus would not do.
sometimes i wonder, if jesus were alive today would he attend church...
how would he behave with the those people who live differently than we do. the ones who believe differently then we do. what about the atheist or the lesbian female with her same sex spouse, raising kids...
in the bible there is something known as the "great commandment". matthew 22: 37-40 where jesus says "love the lord your god with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. this is the first and greatest commandment. and the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself. all the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments."
he says that those two commandments sum it up..love god with everything you've got and love your neighbor just like you love yourself.
later on, a proponent of religious boxes approaches jesus and says that according to the law, even this great commandemnt, i should be straight..and get to heaven..but can you tell me specifically who is my neighbor?
jesus's answer to him is the parable of the good samaritan. the samaritans (themselves jews) and the other jews couldn't stand each other. each thought they were the chosen and each thought the other had veered off the path.
when reading the parable, substitute samaritan with whoever it is you revile (or think is going to hell, or think you are better than)
"A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'
"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."
the samaritan in the story knew that god is love. the samaritan came out of his box ('cause another samaritan might not have..they had reasons to not like the other jews just like the other jewish folks had reasons to not like them..and they could all quote whatever book/law to justify it)
at dang near every wedding you go to, you may come across a reading or quote on a program of 1 Corinthians 13.
specifically it says love is patient, kind. does not envy, does not boast, is not proud. is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs. always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (some reads love never fails)
that's a pretty good definition.
i'm trying to keep this at the forefront of my mind..and heart..god is love, go and do likewise