One feature of the Epiphany Season is that it highlights the great importance of love in the Christian life. This year the season is short, so we do not get the opportunity to use what I choose to call ‘The Love Sunday Collect’, where we are led to pray, “O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you….” What a thought, if you have no love you are as good as dead!
The first four verses in 1 Corinthians tell us plainly, it doesn’t matter what inspiring things we say, what magnificent powers we have, what wonderful things we do, we are spiritually bankrupt without love. As we plan our many programmes, as our new committees get to work, as we refine our strategic plan at the end of our visioning process, let this thought remain in our minds, no progress in the business of the kingdom will be achieved if we do not have love.
We are commanded to love. As Jesus himself taught, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Matt.22:37-39). Jesus further reinforced this message in his training of his disciples, for he wanted to ensure that his community was a community of love. He said to his followers, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another…..”(John 13:34). He declared that love for one another was to be the identifying mark of true discipleship.
We are given the capacity to love. Any attempt to generate love on our own is doomed to failure. We must go to the source. John states it simply but profoundly, “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them” (1 John 4:16b). Paul puts it differently, but is saying the same thing. The source of love is God, and “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given us” (Rom.5:5). Love is God’s gift to those who are in an intimate relationship with him. Being in love with God is the secret to being in love with one another.
In order that our work, our plans, and our programmes might be fruitful, we must pursue a deeper relationship with God that is born out of a life of prayer. It is in our times of prayer, individually and corporately, that we kindle the fire of Divine Love that gives meaning and effectiveness to activities. May that flame of love for God and for one another forever burn within us.