All you need is love

All you need is love

Thursday, 31 July 2014  | Narelle - MECS Principal
Pulitzer prize-winning poet, William Carlos Williams, once described love as a “curious, soft-winged thing”.

What a lovely, gentle, yet vulnerable image of something that we all seem to crave. Love is spoken of endlessly – in song and music everywhere, in literature, in sermons, in drama, in art… Jesus spoke about it on a number of significant occasions. So did Paul. Love is what we aspire to. Love is particularly what Christians aspire to. We are to love God. We are to love our neighbours. We are to love our enemies. To love well is our great goal and mission in life.

Most of us though, our very aware of the obstacles to that ideal, the things that destroy that soft-winged thing. The poisons that creep into our soul; envy, jealousy, narcissism. Some of us carry burdens of confusing love from the past. Some of us have been hurt by love. Some of us feel disconnected by love. We have found out the hard way that this soft-winged thing is just too fragile and difficult.

Many Christians have similar problems in the realm of faith. Some have a sense of spiritual failure when it comes to love. Love of God and neighbour seem so easy for everyone else, but not for us. We listen to others speaking of how much they love God. They pray and sing of that love with great passion and we wonder what’s wrong with us because we don’t feel anything much at all.  And yet here we are in a Christian school, as teachers, parents, role models. What do we say to our students and children about the great commandment – to love God and our neighbours as ourselves? And even more confronting – the commandment to love our enemies!

Can I make two simple observations about this great ideal of love…particularly if we have become disconnected, fearful, disappointed or just a little puzzled?

Firstly, we believe in a God of restoration. Even after significant hurt or injury, relationships can be restored. We can expect to find love again, even if it has been lost. One of the first steps along the way to restoring love in our lives has to do with the way we see other people in general, to realise again that we have an extraordinary connectedness with other human beings. To experience friendship, camaraderie, to share a common interest or goal, to laugh at the same joke…humans have been created for community and to experience the joy of living and working in community has a great restoring effect on our souls.

Secondly, when love is difficult or challenging, it is important to divest ourselves from ‘religiosity’. Sometimes I think we speak too much of a loving God. We throw the concept around like confetti, but we just don’t show it in the way we live! We are deceived into thinking that love is a feeling. It isn’t. It is behaviour. Love is an ethic; it’s something we do. It’s not always something we feel.

What is significant for love, says Jesus, is simply being kind and generous. Not just to the easy ones -  like your friends and family, genial colleagues and polite, affirming students – but to the ones we find difficult, the ones who have ‘sharp corners’! And even more difficult are those who work against you, who throw your kindness right back in your face, who make you feel furious, bitter, diminished. Kindness and generosity to them! The sort of love that this requires has nothing to do with feeling. It is very difficult to feel love in those situations. But we are not asked to feel love, we are asked to act upon it with generosity, kindness, compassion and even sacrifice.

The following rendition of 1 Corinthians 13 might encourage us in our quest to love, as Christ first loved us.

There are times when I can talk with great eloquence, and times when I can talk with great authority, but if I don’t appreciate people, I am just a blatherer.

I may think I have grasped what life is all about, I may believe that I have access to the high places of power, but if I have no real connections to people, I missed the point.

I might like to flaunt my generosity on several charities, I might work until I am burnt out, but if I have missed out on liking people, then I have missed out!

You start to see what loving and liking people are about when they test your patience, when you find you have to be silent, when doing small kindness makes a demand on your time.

You can’t say you know what love is if you are jealous and rude and selfish and resentful. You have given up on love if you get to have a gloat when something goes wrong with someone you don’t like.

When you love people, you are glad to hear their good news. You are not into spreading rumours. You like to believe the best, knowing that goodness and love are qualities that stand our above all the rest.

The doomsday people and those who want to make everyone anxious – they come and go. There are those who go after this fad or that fashion. But you need to look for something that has lasting value.

When I was a child, I did as a child would do – I thought like a child. I talked like a child – but now I am well into adulthood, I need to embrace what that really means.

We know that life comes in bits and pieces, but with God we work for the day when all the bits and pieces will come together into a satisfying whole.

That’s the faith I hold onto. I have this hope that things will get better. But on top of that I know that loving and liking people will change everything. There are these three things that show our religion at its best –
Living with a faith that puts passion into the possible. Having a hope that is as real as the breath I breathe. And knowing that love is my greatest achievement.

Yes, faith hope and love, but above all I know that I must pursue and practise the ways of love.

(adapted from Dr Francis Macnab, Hungry for Love, 2003, pp.136-137)

MECS Principal

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