A prominent and evangelistic atheist was leaving the church where his religiously devoted father had just been laid to rest. The priest had built a good friendship with the atheist over a number of years and they had many public debates and verbal jousts. Seeing that he was visibly emotional and in a deeply pensive mood, the priest said to him at the door, “You loved your father, didn’t you?” The atheist replied, his voice quivering, “Yes, yes I loved him very much.” The priest leaned close, put his hand gently on his shoulder, and whispered in his ear in a caring but direct manner, “Prove it.”
It’s at this point, among many others, that atheism’s vision for humanity is inherently vacuous. Of course the atheist could not ‘prove’ he loved his father in an objective scientific sense. But in that moment he knew deeply that he loved him. Love puts empirical science in its rightful place as a useful tool for exploring our world and discovering knowledge about all things material. But love moves us into the spiritual, and to reduce it to the mere random bouncing of chemicals and hormones is to proclaim absurdity. We intuitively know love is real; we have, at least most of us, experienced receiving it and giving it. Love may trigger chemical responses in our physiology, but it is deeper, richer and higher than that.
At the heart of the Christian faith, and the foundation of the story of the Bible, is this: God’s unfailing love toward humans who fail to love. Here’s what we have established over the last few weeks as we have focussed in on love:
- Love comes from God because God is the only source of love. In fact, God is love. Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. Love one another as I have loved you.” In Jesus, God loves us eternally, unconditionally and freely.
- The way we show our love to God is to obey Jesus’ command to love one another. Our love is to extend beyond the normal relationships of family and friends into a costly and sacrificial love for enemies and the unlovable.
- We don’t so much have a sin problem, we have a love problem. It’s not so much that humanity is sinful, but that humanity is loveless. We have a love deficit…And this deficit can only be filled by God.
- We need to be vigilant to guard our hearts against other loves, such as money, which will lead to evil.
- The church is the practice ground for this new ethic of love from Jesus. We should not be surprised that we still miss the mark and fall short. The good news is that in Jesus we have the power and resources to repair and reconcile relationships that we offer to each other and the world.
- Love is spiritual; that is, its source and foundation is God; however, to be authentic and real it must manifest in deeds and words.
Well, time to get on with the call to love!