I have mentioned in previous posts how romantically love driven our culture is, but this is a problem because the vast number of relationships we have are not romantic. We have familial, friendly, working, neighborly, and spiritual relationships far more than romantic. The culture pushes us to believe that the pinnacle of all relationships and, indeed, love is the romantic relationship. It inundates us with music, television, cinema, artwork, and literature to underpin this assertion. To believe that there is a love greater than the romantic is counter-cultural, but right in line with Christ. When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus answers that it is to love God with all that we are, all of our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37). Then he reveals that the second greatest commandment is like it: to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39). Just as it is the greatest commandment, the greatest love is the spiritual love of God. The second greatest love is not romantic love, according to Jesus, but loving others as we love ourselves. This is important because both of those loves are open to all people, regardless of sexual orientation, age, gender, or any other factor. All people are capable of loving God and one another, and we are called to fulfill that capacity.
For most people, it is not easy to love others without the added ties of romanticism and family. Yet Christ expects that we will love not because it is easy, but because it is right. Our task as Christians is to determine what stands as a barrier to fulfilling those commandments, and break them down, circumvent them, and climb over them by the grace of God. Love is not the easiest emotion. It does not come as quickly and liberally as anger. Love does not grow on trees. It does grow out of the vine:
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NRS).
Out of the vine of Christ himself, divine love entered the world in a whole new way. We who allow ourselves to be grafted to the vine through grace, are able to love in a whole new way as well. We are empowered and given the spiritual gifts to love as sin would never allow. We can see others not just with our face and love them, but look into their eyes and see those of Christ looking back, responding to the presence of the Lord in others. We love because we have been loved, and we continue to do it, because that love is unending. It flows through Christ to us even now. The spiritual work before us is to discover where there are blockages to that love entering the world through us. Where are we unable or even unwilling to love others, and why? How can Christ help us overcome our deficiencies and be conduits of divine love to the fullest extend of our being? When we stop pursuing love from others, and focus upon pouring it out on them, then the love will come back to us ten fold. For not only will God be pleased, but so will those who experience God through our love and care of them. To allow our love to magnify the love of God is one of the greatest responsibilities of being a Christian, and with it comes the greatest reward.