Dear Friends in Christ,
Shortly after his death Jesus gave his disciples, and us, a new commandment: ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another’. To be a disciple is to be called to a life of love. And in particular to agape love, which is rooted in self-sacrifice, in loving without thought of return, freely and unconditionally. Christian love is probably both the most important of all Christian virtues and the hardest to achieve. We may have faith, we may have hope, but don’t always have love.
Here’s the thing about love: we all want to be loved – more than anything else in the world we crave love. The Greek philosopher Aristotle said: ‘No one would choose a friendless existence on condition of having all the other things in the world.’ In other words, we were created to receive love and to give love. None of us is an island; none of us is without the capacity to love and be loved. Love, however, is rather like mercy: to show mercy we must first receive mercy; to love, we must first know we are loved.
So we see that to be a Christian is to be called to a life of love. But how far short we fall! None of us loves as we should love. Our hearts incline so easily to malice, envy, jealousy and rage. How can this be when we are called to love? We cannot love with our old hearts – they are callous and hard. No, a new commandment requires a new heart: the heart of the new creation, the heart of Christ.
This new heart of love is a blessing of the Spirit which we receive when we call upon God’s help, grace and strength to love in those situations where we find it hard to love, to forgive, and to show mercy where we, left to our own devices, are devoid of mercy. This kind of love, agape love, is the blessing and fruit of the Spirit and to this we are called and for this we receive every spiritual blessing and grace.