Have you ever been so appreciative of a quality in another person that you had to tell them immediately because you felt you might burst otherwise? Or have you ever participated in an group exercise of naming characteristics you love in each other? I recently led an exercise in a church service where I called on someone in the room, and everyone else in the room spoke of the positive qualities they saw in that person. It was a powerful, even sacred experience. These are amazing experiences, because something holy happens in those moments of expressing love. Something changes as we focus our love for one another and speak it aloud.
One of the things that has been striking me profoundly in the last couple years is what the New Church tells us about love. A beautiful teaching is that love, by its very definition can’t keep itself to itself, it has to be shared.
“The essence of love is loving others than oneself, wishing to be one with them and devoting oneself to their happiness.... The third essential of God’s love, to devote Himself to the happiness of others, is to be recognized in everlasting life, which is blessedness, bliss and happiness without end, which He gives to those who receive His love into themselves. For God, just as He is Love itself, is also blessedness itself. For every love breathes out an aura of joy from itself, and the Divine Love breathes out the very height of blessedness, bliss and happiness forever” (Emanuel Swedenborg, True Christianity 43).
Love cannot exist unless there is something that it loves; it needs a receptacle.
“The hallmark of love is not loving ourselves but loving others and being united to them through love. The hallmark of love is also being loved by others because this is how we are united. Truly, the essence of all love is to be found in union, in the life of love that we call joy, delight, pleasure, sweetness, blessedness, contentment, and happiness. The essence of love is that what is ours should belong to someone else. Feeling the joy of someone else as joy within ourselves—that is loving” (Emanuel Swedenborg, Divine Love and Wisdom 47).
God is love, and His love is the reason we were created. So you were breathed into existence out of God’s love, for the purpose of God’s love. That is the reason you exist, so that God can love you. What an amazing thought! And if any of us were not here, there would be some unique expression of God’s love which we are each an instrument of in someone else’s life that would be missing from their life and from the world. That is an incredible thing to think about. Each of our lives is meant to be an instrument of that love which would be missing in other people’s lives without us.
It is up to us to share that love, share that expression of the Lord that we were created for, with others. We need to carry that same conviction into our interactions with all the people in our lives so that when we use the words “God is Love,” and when we talk about how the Lord loves all His children, everyone we come in contact with will come to really believe it. We need to make sure people feel and trust that our love for them is coming from a heartfelt conviction and that we care more about them than we do about what’s comfortable for us. Not just for our friends, but everyone around us, on both an individual and a global scale.
The Lord has called each of us by name and is lifting us up to new lives. This is where all hope comes from.
Take this challenge:
- Think of someone you love, feel neutral about, or are in conflict with.
- Speak/write the positive qualities you see in them.
- Hold them in a loving place in your heart.
- Observe any shifts that occur within you as you do this.
Ethan McCardell is the pastor at the Light for Life New Church in Seattle, WA. Visit www.lightforlifenewchurch.org for more information.