What is Love?

How can I Love?

Romans 13: 8-10

How do we love?What is love? Is there a part of our bodies from which love comes?We often say the heart is from where love comes, but it is just an organ that pumps blood around our bodies.

Some might think of the sexual organs, but our society is full of sexually active people still starved of love.Maybe love stems from the brain, but some of the greatest thinkers of the world live depressed lives because they have no love.How about the nervous system, the tingly feelings of touch and nurture?But the nervous system is just a heap of electrical currents running around the body.Is the organ of love the eyes, the ears, or the tastebuds?No!It has to be more.Perhaps it is the whole person from whom love evolves?

Being honest though, we know that left alone by ourselves, love evades us.In fact, we don’t even know what love is, when we are alone!

What we do know is that we all need love to survive in this world; a world starved of love.At the close of World War II a soldier was on sentry duty on the outskirts of London on Christmas morning.Later in the day, as he walked the city with a couple of his military mates, he came to an old grey building in amongst the ruins left by bomb blasts.On this building was a sign, “Queen Anne’s Orphanage”.He wondered how they might be celebrating Christmas inside, so he and the other soldiers knocked on the door.An attendant told him that all the children had lost their parents in theLondon bombings.

The soldiers went inside and seeing no tree, no decorations, and no gifts, gave out as gifts whatever they had in their pockets – a stick of gum, a coin, a stubby pencil.The soldier saw a boy standing all alone in the corner.He went up to him and said, ‘My little man, what do you want?’Turning his pale face up to the soldier, the little boy answered, ‘Please sir, I want to be loved.’

Just like that little boy, we too want to be loved.We need to be loved.

This boy starved of love, knew there was nothing in him capable of love.War had stripped all love from him, but he knew he needed to be loved.That too is our world – in desperate need of love.Not knowing how to find it, not knowing what it is, every person has a hole within needing to be filled with love.No organ produces love – not the brain, the eyes, the ears, nor the heart.

St. Paultells us, ‘Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.’

So if love fulfils the law, how then can we love?Aren’t we like little children in the orphanage, unable to find love or even know what it is?Love must come to us from outside.When that soldier heard the words from that little boy, tears filled the man’s eyes and he fell to his knees with outstretched arms, took a hold of the boy and hugged him.

Look at the arms of Jesus outstretched (picture Jesus Christ at Calvaryon Good Friday, and the crucifix on the altar) for you.This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. (1 John 3:16)Even greater than the sacrifice the soldier made for the little boy is Jesus’ sacrifice for us.We are orphans adopted by the Father through the sacrifice of his only Son.

So God loves us and in him we know what love is.Love is not something that begins with us, but we need it so much to survive.We have received God’s love because he sent Jesus to die for us and then raised him from death.The love of God is now with us; God has sought us out from amongst the ruins of this life.Jesus is the soldier doing sentry duty, standing guard over us.

So then how does God’s love come to us?It comes though people; in a very special way through the office of a pastor, and also through all of us in the priesthood of all believers.

We heard last week Jesus tell Peter to, ‘Get behind me Satan!’And we know that Peter denied Jesus three times just prior to his crucifixion.But it is what Jesus says to Peter after his resurrection which addresses love in our context today.In fact it tells us how the fulfilment of love in Christ on cross is given to all of us orphans, adopted by God.

Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17)

Three times Jesus asks of Peter, ‘Do you love me?’, and Peter says, ‘Yes Lord, you know that I do.’But what does Jesus say to Peter in response to Peter’s confession of love?‘Feed my lambs, take care of my sheep!’If Peter was to love Jesus he was going to love him through loving others. God was calling him to allow Jesus to stand guard over others through him.Peter was called to take his post and do sentry duty on behalf of Christ.

After all of Peters failures and they continued right through his life, even after Jesus ascended into heaven, Jesus calls Peter to love.You see Jesus won forgiveness for Peter’s sins on the cross and he has won forgiveness for your sins too. We can love ourselves and others, with the love that comes from God, in his Son Jesus Christ.Through means given by pastors—forgiving of sins against God, preaching, baptising, and administering Holy Communion—and also through people praying and forgiving each other, plus through all our other wholesome vocations God gives love.

Christ is present in your whole being and no matter what we are called to do God gives us the ability to love other people.God lives in us standing watch over us and through us over others too.

That little orphan boy had no way of knowing the soldier was going to walk into his orphanage and give him the loving hug he so badly needed.Jesus finds us and gives us the hug of life, when we had no way of finding love or knowing what it was.

So how do you think all those lost from God, might come to know his love?God loves us, he loves all people, and because Christ lives in you and me, even while we still struggle with sin, God wants to love others through you and me too.Jesus Christ, himself, stands guard in us and through us, seeking out the lost to love. Amen.

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