February brings red paper hearts and chocolates wrapped in foil to every grocery and department store. But shouldn't we think about love the other 11 months as well? And what kind of love do we want in our lives and what can we expect? Rev. Eric J. Edwards of Resurrection and Hope Ministries challenges us to explore the complexities of unconditional love. Is it possible to find? Or possible to provide for another? How do we strive to love better and more fully?
REV. ERIC J. EDWARDS
It always seems like the older you get the more you start to remember the good old days. The simpler moments. Rare are the dates ( as in When Harry Met Sally ) when a simple grilled cheese sandwich can turn into a multidimensional, hedonistic source of orgasmic sensual pleasure. In this age when the people living in any state in this union can be defined as simply as the colors red or blue, we have the tendency to boil down every complex and multi-dimensional issue into simply 'us vs. them.' However, my friend, these should be the days of diversity and inclusiveness—when we can no longer ignore that which needs the most attention. Even if it makes us uncomfortable.
Can love really be 'unconditional' in the 21st century? I'm not sure it can or really has to be. Even in most churches, where we involve and maneuver ourselves within our prospective communities, there are issues and plagues of HIV/AIDS, Homelessness, Racism, Sexism, and Classism. We are conditional with our benevolence, we call that wisdom; and conditional with our ministerial evaluations, we call that theological knowledge. We sometimes communicate our convictions with so much contempt that it's hard to find the love anywhere within. And still the world outside our doors continues to look for love in all the wrong places. However I do know that love can be what the Apostles Paul and Peter describe as 'unfeigned'.
As far as I know, this particular adjective is used only twice in biblical scripture when referring to love. 2 Corinthians 6:6 and 1 Peter 1:22. In both instances, simply defined, it means: love without hypocrisy. Without going into the historical and cultural context of the scriptures mentioned, I believe that this is the kind of love that most of us are looking for. I remember one of the elderly women in the Pentecostal church that I used to attend defined love this way, 'Love means commitment.' But regardless of whatever kind of relationship we find ourselves in: friendship, partner, pastor, or parishioner, we want to be able to trust and count on the people with whom we share our histories, lives, and even our bodies. We want to know that there is someone someplace that will love us in our entirety and just as we are. The good, the bad, and the ugly!
The Apostle John speaks to this idea in his gospel ( John 13:23&25 ) . As Jesus speaks of the one who is going to betray Him, you can tell that Jesus is committed to loving even the one that will take an integral part in His crucifixion. You find no hypocrisy here. Not even hatred. You find only the acknowledgement of whom His disciples really were, and the understanding of their places in His life. Although He was about to die for the sins of the world, there could be no room in His heart for hatred, or even extreme dislike. Love was not only the focus, but also the motive and incentive. Committed to His cause, Jesus not only proceeded to the cross and the tomb, but was resurrected and given to us as an example of how we should live in community. Connected to one another. Ideal isn't it. But it is not just ideal, it is a commandment.
So how do we live this out? That's the real question. Our quest for fame, power, influence, and control has clouded true love. It has cost us in our countries, nation, cities, and communities. I might even dare to say that the concept of unconditional love has been dismembered in some of our churches. If only we could purchase a spiritual hepa filter so that every person we meet could be processed through it. We would then be spared the pain of having to learn the hard way, which ones are truly loving us and which ones are not.
But if we were spared the pain of the process, could we really appreciate the joy and the power that comes from unearthing ( or even resurrecting ) that someone who really does love us? All of us. Even the parts of us that we need to change as we experience and enjoy this gift we call life!
It is my prayer that we are all able to find unfeigned love and experience it, but the greater joy is in being able to give it! Yes, the greater elation is in resurrecting the God-given ability to 'love unfeignedly' within ourselves. I believe it is there that we will find unconditional love!
Pastor Eric J. Edwards is the pastor at Resurrection and Hope Ministries, Inc. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org . For comments on this column email email@example.com .
Rev. Eric J. Edwards has been serving in ministry more than 20 years. He is the Founder and Senior Pastor of Resurrection & Hope Ministries in Hyde Park—an Open & Affirming ministry that is providing a safe, nurturing, and electrifying \atmosphere for all God's people.