What's love got to do with it?
What measure of love are we willing to extend to one another?
Through an extraordinary story, what Mary Johnson has been able to do within her lifetime speaks volumes about unconditional love under the anvil of forgiveness.
In February 1993, her 20-year-old son was shot in the head by Oshea Israel, a 16-year old, after an argument at a party in Minneapolis, Minn. Originally wanting to see justice, she turned her anger into compassion. Now she and Israel are next-door neighbors. Today, she counsels mothers of murdered children while he visits prisons and churches. He shares about forgiveness and reconciliation.
What could possibly compel such acts of love and care in one of the most unimaginable circumstances of life? A mother mourning the loss of her son embraces the one who caused her pain. And where do each of us fall within the limits and limitlessness of God’s love?
In 1 John 3, verses 16-18, we read, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
God’s love is active. It reaches far beyond the depths of human emotions and demands a deeper effort of placing one’s self aside for a greater message. Yet we are incapable of reaching this level of compassion without the Holy Spirit’s activity within our lives. Our corruptible nature disables us from being able to reach such levels of care, yet through the Spirit’s guidance, we are enabled to exemplify by word, action and deed incredible doses of love – a love that defines us as relational with God and not pulled by the tenets of our surroundings.
The world tells us to hate those that offend us and to desire the worse for those that harm us, to amend vengeance with likened revenge. God’s love, however, is the complete opposite. We learn in Leviticus 19:18, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”
And so we have a choice, to either love as God requires us to or not to. That is what free-will entails. To do the hard work that is contrary to the world. And to daily seek a higher level of love that can only be applicable within our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.
So what’s love got to do with it? Love is the impetus, the driving force in achieving the unimaginable: a closer relationship to the creator of all things. Love is the compelling force that says through the mercy and grace of God, we are truly capable of extending the same to one another.
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
What a powerful testament to that which is attainable for us all through belief. Only the love of a God who was willing to sacrifice everything for his creation could be provisional for us to experience the same. Eighteenth-century Pastor John Vianney once said, “Love for our neighbor consists of three things: to desire the greater good of everyone; to do what good we can when we can; to bear, excuse and hide other’s faults. The kind of love that Jesus is talking about here is the sacrificial love of the cross. Not the superficial love of this world.”
It is at the foot of the cross where we are humbled to realize that without the love of God for each of us, how would we ever be able to love others? Therefore, may our days be blessed with opportunities to show the love of God in whatever form it presents itself to do so. And may our obstacles and barriers be removed through the power of prayer and our attentiveness to the disciplines of the faith. And in so doing, may his mercy and his grace be a sustaining force and focus as we seek to live under the auspice of a selfless and far-reaching love. His love.