15 May The Power of Love
On a visit to New Jersey, Ruth and I passed a billboard which read, “You can win this billboard.” Unfortunately, by the time I started reading how, we had driven past. The words stuck, however, and I began to wonder what message I would want to share with the rest of the world (or at least with the drivers on the New Jersey Turnpike).
The first slogan that came to mind was “GOD IS LOVE”, but then I thought, wouldn’t that exclude atheists? So I came up with an alternative: “LOVE IS REAL.” It’s not original – it comes from a John Lennon song called Love. In many ways, it doesn’t seem appropriate for a billboard because the message is not trying to sell you anything. It is simply stating a fact.
“Love is real.” What does that mean, exactly? Love is a small word with a hundred and one different meanings. Basically, love is what we need from the moment we are born, to the moment we die. Most of us learn about love from our mothers: as babies, we learn that love is nurturing, protective, and reciprocal. Later in life we learn how to express love as an adult, and we learn how the power of love can be both a wonderful and a terrible thing. We also learn of the love of God, which can teach us that love is much greater than we first thought.
Writers, poets and musicians have described and extolled love. The poet e.e. cummings wrote:
love is a place
& through this place of
(with brightness of peace)
A character in the novel, Spring Fever, by P. G. Wodehouse, said this about love:
“Love”, she said, “seems to pump me full of vitamins. It makes me feel as if the sun were shining and my hat was right and my shoes were right and my frock was right and my stockings were right, and somebody had just left me ten thousand a year.”
Bob Dylan, in his wistful song I Threw It All Away, reminds us of how love is precious, and easily lost through our own foolishness. In one of the lines, there is a perfect definition of love:
“Love is all there is, it makes the world go round, love and only love, it can’t be denied.”
Love is in our DNA, our very being. We exist because of love, and through love we become the person we were created to be. It’s the reason God made heaven and earth. It’s the reason God made you and me. For a believer, it is God’s love which fills the universe. It is a love which, as e.e. cummings writes, moves through all places.
Love’s power can change lives: it can build up or break down. It can sustain individuals, families and churches, since true faith rests on a foundation of love. Love also has the power to wound and cause heartbreak. Whatever we think of love, it is true that love is flowing through the world like a mighty river, and there was a time when that great stream of love stood stock still and we were able to see into the very heart of it. That happened when God sent Jesus Christ into the world.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry spoke about the love of Jesus in these words:
“Jesus sacrificed his life for the good of others, for the good of the other, for the well-being of the world, for us. That’s what love is. Love is not selfish and self-centered. Love can be sacrificial, and in so doing, becomes redemptive. And that way of unselfish sacrificial redemptive love, changes lives and it can change this world.”
Bishop Curry is talking about the love of God for us: a love which seeks not its own benefit, but the redemption of sinners. It is the love we see at the crucifixion of Jesus, which to human eyes appeared to be the defeat of love, but which in fact showed love at its most profound and far reaching. Love could never be more real than in the broken and battered body of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hung bleeding from the cross. Love could deliver no purer balm than the saving grace which flowed from the dying Jesus as he gave up his life for our sakes.
This is love in its purest and best form. It is the kind of love which surpasses all human expressions of love, although it comes from the same spring. The love shown on the cross henceforth becomes our reference point for love. So, for example, the power of love to heal is nothing less than the power of the cross to take away our sins. And the power of love to repair broken relationships is nothing less than the power of the cross to reconcile God and sinful humanity. And the power of love to forgive is the power of Jesus’ words from the cross, when he says, “Forgive them Father, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Through the cross, we enter deeply into the mystery and power of love to heal and transform the world. If we are to love and be made in love, we need to remember the highest point of love which Jesus reached, which was on the cross. Whenever we gather in church to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, we remember Jesus’ self-offering on the cross. The Eucharist is Love’s memory.
“Love is real. Real is love.” Take these words to heart and live in the power, and strength, and woundedness of love. Learn from the King of love, who is Jesus Christ our Lord. Let him teach you and inspire you and through him may you find love’s joy and peace.
Father David Beresford