God is love. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. - 1 John 4:8b, 12
Love’s the only thing that ever saved my life. - Sturgill Simpson
To love anything good, at any cost, is a bargain. - Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow
It’s kind of strange that John the Beloved would say on record that no one has ever seen God. It’s strange because John saw God.
And he refused, at the end of his life, to great personal discomfort, to renounce the fact that in Jesus he saw God. John knew Jesus - he followed Jesus around Israel for three years, seeing the miracles, believing the teachings, hearing Jesus declare himself to be God in the flesh. And he witnessed the resurrection. John was changed.
And for all that power and truth that John saw firsthand in Jesus, his takeaway was this: God is love. When we see love in our world, we see God. When we love each other, we witness God. And we are changed.
If heaven is the destination, love is the road that leads us there. God’s love, yes. And certainly the love of Jesus. But your love and my love as well. And love is expensive.
It is not easy or cheap to learn to love ourselves, to begin to believe the things that God is telling each one of us every day - “look at the birds, free and unfettered, careless in my care - and you count far more to me than birds.”
It is not easy or cheap to slow down, to present as much of ourselves to the present moment as we are able, to look each other in the eyes, to listen to each other’s stories not just with our ears but with our whole selves. To hear and to heal.
It is even less easy to choose to love those who wish to do us harm, who do not believe the way that we believe. But when we love, we see God. And the world does, too.
This is the gospel of Jesus, and it speaks today with the same clarity and power - that there is no greater love than to lay down our lives for the good of those around us. It is expensive, it is inconvenient, it is sometimes painful.
It is also electric. It disarms. It moves fluidly. It fills in the gaps and spaces and cracks. Like water, it flows to the deepest and furthest places in us and in our world.
God’s kingdom is coming. His judgement on us has been rendered. And, in the words of Michael Gungor, his judgement is love. When we receive this love and when we give it away, we see God. And everything is changed.