Love has become a rather cheap and over-used word in our lexicon. We love our chocolate ice cream. We love some celebrity on Dancing With The Stars or American Idol. We love our car, house, that flowering tree outside our bedroom window. This is not the kind of love Jesus is talking about in this section of the Gospel of John. This isn't eros (sexual) or storge (familial) or philio (affectionate). Jesus is using agape here when we translate it as "love". The sense behind this word agape is that the mind, and not the heart, is what rules our interactions with people. This agape, this love, Jesus is talking about is what is to govern all of our personal relationships outside those that fall into storge, eros and philio. (familial, sexual, friendship].
This whole section of the Gospel of John is Jesus talking about love, the new commandment of loving one another as he loved the disciples and us. By what Jesus says today, it is clear that this agape-love about which Jesus is talking is a deep seated desire to do our best for those we care about. Part of that, as is clear in today's reading, is telling the truth to those we love. If we truly care for someone, we will tell them the truth - no matter how hard it may be for us to get those words out of our mouth. Many times, these truths don't hurt.....sometimes they do. Whichever way those words fall, if we are acting out of this place of agape-love, this place of intelligent and purpose-driven love, we will be carrying out Jesus' instructions to love those in our community, to love our neighbor, to love those who do not even know they want to be a part of our intentional Christian community. Jesus does not make it easy by our society's standards. If we live into these precepts Jesus is providing for us, we will find it is not only not difficult, but our lives will be far richer and sweeter.
Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Art: Untitled, jfd+ 2011