Following Christ

I am not a Bible scholar, nor do I understand Greek or Hebrew.  Admittedly, my Bible knowledge is limited to English translations.  I can only follow that which I understand. And so, it seems to me that Christianity, following Christ, is primarily about love.  In the  Gospel of John, the apostle has written the most well known sentence of the entire Bible, For God, so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  Matthew records in Chapter 22, that when that son Jesus, was confronted with the question, which is the greatest command, he responded by saying, 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.  I think he knew that the second would often be more difficult to keep than the first.  So he gave us a simple rule to live by, we call it the Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

The Apostle John further writes in his epistle, I John 4:16.….God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him.  In the same chapter he repeats the phrase, God is love. Not to sound too much like former President Clinton, but, I think we need to consider the definition of the verb IS.  Somewhere in my past , a teacher once likened the word IS to the mathematical equal sign. If we say that X+Y =Z we are actually saying that Z is X and Y combined.  So, if we say that God is love, in a sense we are saying that Love is God.

Scripture tells us that God is a spirit.  Love is also a spirit.  Neither has a physical form that we can reach out and touch.  Neither can we see either with our eyes, nor  hear them with our ears, nor smell or taste them.  I think sometimes that instead of striving to be like God, we too often and too literally ascribe human traits to God.  I submit that love is God; it is certainly the spirit of God.

The Apostle Paul has a great deal to say about love in many of his epistles.  I particularly love his beautiful little thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians.   He starts out telling us how important love is.  In the first three verses, he says that love is more important than the ability to speak in the tongues of men and even of angels.  It is more important than the ability to foresee the future or to understand all mysteries or to acquire all knowledge.  It is more important than a faith so strong that it gives us the ability to move a mountain by that faith alone.  It is more important than selling all one’s possessions and giving all the proceeds to the poor.  It is even more important that giving one’s life for a righteous cause.

Then in verses 4 through a part of 8, he tells us what love is and is not. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

In the thirteenth and last verse, he closes with these words.  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.

My faith often waivers, riddled with doubts.  My hope often wanes in the face of the trials of this life; when I contemplate what I perceive to be the plight of humankind; or when I consider the utter improbability of everlasting life.  But love sustains me.  I trust that the love, mercy and grace of God is sufficient to fill in the gaps of my faith and to shore up my hope of a life beyond death. In the meantime, I will strive to live by those two greatest commands.  If I can do that, to the best of my ability, it will be enough.