Evans: Love is …

Lori Evans
Lori Evans (email)

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about love. It’s a loaded word, isn’t it?

To more be precise, my thoughts have been focused on what each of us means by love and the inadequacy of language for conveying its multivalence. What does love mean in that Facebook post? What does that friend mean when they use the word? What does it mean for Christians to say, God is Love?

Remembering the “Love is…” cartoons from my childhood, I searched the Internet for a smattering of concise cultural ideas and was confounded by phrases that should more precisely read, “Love ain’t…!”

A couple of years ago, I began to ponder a similar word while sitting in a seminar. The room was filled with academics, clergy, and those preparing for roles in the church. The conversation that day was centered on a John Wesley sermon and the word that floated through the air was grace. As the discussion ensued, I began to ponder whether we were all speaking of the same thing. Each use of the word grace was pregnant with significance, but it became clear to me that we were in desperate need of a pithy “grace is…” to make sure we were all on the same page.

Grace… Love… a quick perusal of the Internet or coffee shop conversations will leave you with the notion that the marketing team at Coca-Cola has contributed more to their modern cultural connotative meanings than Scripture. But whose words are they anyway? Where do they come from?

In my quest for the truth of love, I found myself reading 1 John 4. In verses 7-8, we are told that “love is from God,” and that “love is God.” Earlier in the letter, the word even tells us what love ain’t… it isn’t the love of the world or the things of the world. 1 John 2:15 tells us that the “love of the Father is not in those who love the world.” But if there is love that is not love, how can we know truth with so many meanings of love swirling about us?

John tells us that “God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him … this is love, not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (I John 4:9-10). In the same chapter, we are told that “everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”

Confused? So was I! In a sermon on the passage, St. Augustine explained it this way: “when you hear from God, either the Son or the Holy Spirit is understood” because Romans 5:5 tells us the love of God, Who is God, “‘has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.’ For there are many things which can come about that have a good appearance and don’t proceed from the root of love… after all, thorns also have flowers… Love must be within.” So Love isGod and Love is … the gift of God in the Person of the Holy Spirit!

And that brings me back to Grace.

Categories: Between Sundays