‘Love, love, love! That’s all you ever talk about! Why not just tell us about the saints, about church history, about the truth of Orthodoxy? Why not remind us of all the wrongs done to us, so we can be motivated and mobilised to go on the offensive? Why not, like some pentecostal preacher, provoke us with phrases like ‘Becoming armed and dangerous!’ The faith must be taught, understood, accepted, defended. The borders of the Church must be defined, the doors barred and guarded. We have a job to do. Keep out the sinners who want to sin, so that the righteous within can be saved, them, and only them—I mean, us!’
Nobody has said this to me, or written this, but maybe some have thought as much, even as I have. What is so great about love that it can take over one’s life, that it can be a worthy pursuit? Isn’t love the product of all these other things? Don’t we acquire love like we acquire the Holy Spirit, by doing lots of works of purification, guarding the mind, fasting, praying, study and all the rest? Yes, charity is part of the plan, but isn’t it only just a part?
I wonder about this sometimes. I wonder why I feel more love than I can express. I wonder why I never seem to be able to give or receive enough love. I wonder why love seems to be missing in so much of what passes for Christianity. I wonder why people are afraid to accept love. I wonder why they want to limit their love to person, place and time. I wonder how something so universal can be so rare. I wonder how something so true can be so easily counterfeited. I wonder how something so valuable can be so cheapened.
The evangelist John writes about love too. ‘God is love,’ he says, and though church fathers have warned us that the reverse is not necessarily true, ‘love is God,’ it can still be proven by the willingness to lay life down for a brother. That is the extreme, but everyday to smile at, to speak kindly to, to encourage, sometimes even to tell the truth to a fellow human being, these are the proofs of a love that can be God, because only God can do such things, in us, through us, and for us. Helping not harming, blessing not cursing, freeing not oppressing.
Yes, love, love, love.