Practice love, Brethren

God is called many things in the Holy Scriptures; He is called merciful, He is called good, He is called compassionate and wise. King David goes so far as to say that God’s splendor is so great that our words and utterances can’t do justice to His name, so all we can do is to stay silent: “To you, silence is praise, O God in Zion.”[1]

To what extent can we know God, in order to be able to say something of His nature and character? The apostle John writes of God not in a descriptive form, but assigns a noun to God – he writes: “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is Love.”[2] As we see from this passage, the knowledge of God and love are strongly intertwined. Without love, God is unattainable. The apostle Paul saw all gifts and wisdom of little significance, to the point of forfeiting all for the sake of love: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”[3]

Our Lord is invisible, infinite in strength and power. Such a God may seem distant from our reach, let alone knowable. “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”[4] The Beloved Disciple affirms God’s elusiveness, but adds that if we love one another, God will dwell in us, grow us and mature us from within. Yeshua is calling us to practice love: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”[5] This new-old commandment is the core of the Law and the Prophets and a reflection of the very nature of the giver of the Law. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”[6] Yeshua also adds, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”[7]

The greatest commandment is to love the Lord, but Yeshua’s answer to the Pharisee isn’t complete without the succeeding verses. The love of God is inseparable from the love of our neighbor, it’s almost like 2 sides of one coin. John tells us that if we say that we love God, yet full of resentment for our neighbor, we are lying to ourselves. God becomes accessible to us through and with love!

Furthermore, as Mother Teresa used to say: “If you want to bring happiness to the whole world, go home and love your family.” And this is where it begins – it all begins in the family. Just like the body of believers on earth is the bride, and love is fulfilled between God and His people, so within His body, a man is called to love his wife just the same. Within every church body, there are many miniature church models, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”[8]

Marriage is a God given gift, it is an opportunity to love and be loved, it is a shadow of the greater love fulfilled in Messiah Yeshua. Within a family, when it’s members are loving one another they are acting out God’s love for themselves. “We love, because He first loved us.”[9]

The circle of love will thereafter expand, and as your cup will overflow with love, it will spill onto the rest of your surroundings – Your friends, your congregation, your colleagues, and God-willing, even upon strangers. We can’t love the way Yeshua loves us, for His love is perfect, but we should all strive to fulfill the Law in our love towards one another. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”[10] Start where you are, start with those who are near – start at home, and practice love.

[1] Psalms 65:1 (Stone/Artscroll Translation. Read about Mystery of the Missing Silence)

[2] 1 John 4:8

[3] 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

[4] 1 John 4:12

[5] John 13:34

[6] Matthew 22:37-39

[7] John 14:21

[8] Ephesians 5:22-27

[9] 1 John 4:19

[10] John 13:35