Liturgical Notes

Two Kinds of Love – Two Kinds of Life

Love and life go hand-in-hand. Life flows from love. A life without love is miserable. A person who feels unloved finds it well-nigh impossible to love. Every human being needs to love and be loved in order to function fully and joyfully. Without love we die internally. This is why everyone needs to know God loves him or her.

Jesus calls us to a selfless love and here is where we balk as Christians. Just as every individual deserves to be respected as a human being, so does everyone deserve to be loved, even though their actions may be evil. Jesus commands us: “My command to you is: love your enemies, pray for your persecutors. This will prove that you are children of your Heavenly Father, for His sun rises on the bad and to good, He rains on the just and the unjust.” (Mt 5:43-45) Loving like Jesus is impartial. “If you love those who love you, what merit is there in that? … Do not pagans do as much? In a word, you must be made perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:46-47) As human beings born with a fallen nature we’re basically self-centred and view love from a purely selfish perspective. Yet we crave to be loved unselfishly.

There are two kinds of love that generate two kinds of life, egotistical love and sacrificial love. In egotistical love we love those who love us and give us what we want. When they stop loving us or refuse to satisfy our wants we stop loving. “I’ll love you if you love me!” “If you love me, do this for me or give me what I want!” This kind of love views others as objects to be used for one’s own satisfaction. Sacrificial or self-less love, on the other hand, creates an other-centred life that focuses on opportunities to make a gift of oneself to others. Sacrificial love purifies selfish love and makes the person live a life that enriches all those whose paths he or she crosses. Real love always focuses on what’s good for the other person.

Jesus epitomised selfless or sacrificial love in His passion and death and Resurrection. He acted lived His own words: “There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn 15:13) He freely sacrificed His life so everyone might have life. His love gave eternal life to the repentant thief beside Him as He hung upon the cross. Jesus’ love doesn’t have favourites. “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather in ever nation whoever fears Him and acts uprightly is acceptable to Him.” (Acts 10: 34) Here we see the great difference between our notion of love and Jesus’ love. Our love shows partiality while Jesus’ love doesn’t. We show partiality by loving those we like and rejecting or ignoring those we don’t like. Our love is more often based on feeling than on choice. Just as feelings change so does our love. That’s not Jesus ‘way.

Jesus calls for a love that’s based on obedience, not on feeling.  “This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 15:12) His love for us is the standard for the love from which the Christian life flows.  We must choose to love whether or not we feel like it if we want our life to be productive. We must love unselfishly if we want to achieve our potential. Sacrificial love brings joy; it’s giving without expecting a reward. Egotistical love brings misery when unrequited.

The Psalmist reminds us that, “The Lord has made His salvation known; in the sight of the nations He has revealed His justice.” (Ps 98: 2) Jesus brought salvation and justice to the world. Justice promotes God’s love by making us right with Him and our neighbour making us friends.  Jesus reveals, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (Jn 15:14) What He commands is to love one another. If we want to be Jesus’ friends, we have no option but to love our neighbour as our self, however difficult that might be. He chose us “to go forth and bear fruit.” (Jn 15:16) Sacrificial love is always fruitful, both for the one who loves as well as the beloved.

Sacrificial love is difficult for us because we tend to be selfish and ruled by our feelings. To love as Jesus commands us we must rise above our ego. That requires the Holy Spirit. We need the Holy Spirit to “de-egotize” our spirit so we can focus on giving rather than on getting. There’s a huge difference between a life lived selfishly and a life energized by a spirit of generosity. It’s a life marked by engagement rather than disengagement. It’s the difference between a tree that has only roots and a trunk and one that also has branches and leaves. The first tree won’t live long. It takes in moisture and nutrients from the soil, but lacking branches and leaves that spread and catch the sun’s rays, it has no energy to turn that moisture and nutrients into growth and fruitfulness. So is the difference between the two kinds of love and the two kinds of life they generate. Love like Jesus and live joyfully. (frsos)