“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” — 1 John 4:7-8
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” — John 15:12
As we rebuild the Temple of the Lord, we are being remade in the image of Christ. A crucial part of that remaking is the purifying of our lives that we may become holy as He is holy. It is a process. We are being set apart from the world; not removed from the world, but becoming different from those around us, and wholly belonging to Christ. The world no longer has any claim upon us. But though the world may no longer lay claim to us, we are called to be in the world and to love those who are still mired in its clutches.
But how do we do this? The learning is in the doing. We learn to love the unlovable. C.S. Lewis said, “The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” This is exactly what Jesus told us in Luke’s Gospel: “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you…If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them” (6:27-36).
Truly it is difficult to love some people, but as we see from the example of Jesus and the truth of God’s word we can do it. He gives us the power through the Holy Spirit to demonstrate compassion and spend time with social outcasts just as Jesus did. We can do a multitude of things that we think we cannot do if we just call upon the Holy Spirit to work in and through us to do it. God loves the unlovable and He loves us … even though we are sometimes unlovable too. This is how Jesus loved, and He commanded us to do the same, saying, “just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). Jesus was willing to die for us when we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). Can we not be bothered to make simple sacrifices for those unlovable ones around us? We are to love one another so that the world will see Jesus manifested in our lives—to see that we are different. Why would they want to be part of a Church that looks no different from the institutions of the world?
As was noted in the meditation on Thursday, February 18, love for one another is the mortar that holds the bricks of the Temple together. But just as mortar which is applied correctly not only holds the bricks in place, but also enhances the finished look of the structure, so our love holds the members of the Body together and makes a Temple attractive to the world. The world is looking. But what are they seeing? In the second chapter of Peter’s first epistle he talks about the “living stones” being built up into a “spiritual house” and that we are to “keep our conduct among the Gentiles honorable…” He explains, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:15-17).
There has been a lot of talk this past year about freedom. People have argued that their freedom is being taken away by the government. There have been Christians who refused to obey the authorities and have gathered in large crowds, and there were those who refused to wear masks, enabling the spread of the Covid virus. The world is watching! Are we using our freedom as “a cover-up for evil”? Jesus said that we are to love others “as I have loved you.” He sacrificed everything to give us the opportunity to have eternal life. To be Christlike is to sacrifice ourselves to give life to another.
We are called to be set apart, to be different from the world. “Your way of acting should be different from worldly ways” (Rule St. Benedict 4:21), “that we should be holy and blameless before Him” (Ephesians 1:4). It’s about relationship. Yes, we are called to love one another in the Church, but we are also called in Christlikeness to love the unlovable: the refugees, the racially different, political opponents, and our unruly neighbors. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:34-35). Love in action is the beginning step of becoming holy.