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Love One Another as I have Loved You

From Rev. Erik Buss, Assistant to the Pastor
February 11, 2020

This Friday is Valentine’s Day when we celebrate love, and romantic love in particular. Although many of the traditions surrounding this celebration can feel commercialized, the fact is it wouldn’t work if there wasn’t something in us wanting to belong and connect at a deep level. We read about married love: “There is no love which strives for these openings [of the minds of each person to the other] more intensely, or which opens the interior recesses of minds more forcefully and adeptly, than married love; for it is the soul in each which impels it.” (Married Love 302) Even if we are not married or in a relationship, many of us can, I’m sure, relate to that yearning to push through barriers to find human connection. And in fact one of the hard things for some is that Valentine’s Day highlights a painful lack they feel at present.
Something I have been noticing of late is that the love I have for my wife, while different from any other love because it is so all encompassing and deep, is really about the same dynamics as any other love. When we love others, we notice them as individuals and seek to serve their good. It’s so easy for any kind of relationship to be transactional: I’ll do this for you and you’ll do that for me. We can spend a lot of our lives being driven by these thoughts, even if not consciously. I’ll take care of my child with loving attention and in return I expect my child to make me look good in public. I’ll stop to help you pick up the things you dropped, and I expect a smile. You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.
The Lord calls us to something deeper, and the first step involves really noticing others. True Christian Religion 43 says that the first of the three qualities of Divine love is loving others outside of oneself. This seems obvious since everyone is outside of ourselves. I think the Lord is saying that to love others we have to pay attention to who they are. There’s a part of us that assumes people are like us: you’ll like mushrooms because I do; you should be able to control your temper like I do. Loving others requires seeing others for who they are, and seeking to call out the best in them. I have learned to love my wife better by learning to see how my children are different from me and loving them for the good in them. I have learned a lot in the current political climate by trying to see the good motives and true ideas of those with whom I disagree. When I see someone outside of myself for who they are it changes my heart.
What is most comforting is that the Lord sees us for who we are. Not just our faults, but also our desires that we’ve not been able to realize yet, and our potential that we don’t yet see. And in that seeing He loves us and brings out what is good. So this Valentine’s week I invite you to really notice others, and especially notice the good in them that you can serve. Observe the compassion and love that flows from that awareness.

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