Recently, our women’s group at Unity was talking about profound experiences of love that we have felt over the course of our lives. At first, I wasn’t sure how to answer this as the term “love” can be described in so many ways. Everyone has their own definition of what love is or isn’t.
I do some writing with an amazing 85 year old man in Florida who is very spiritually connected. I once told him that we human beings are so limited in our terminology to describe anything that has to do with God/Spirit that we sometimes tend to get tripped up on expressing ourselves when it comes to what Spirit is saying to us or through us.
Wikipedia describes love as: “an emotion of a strong affection and personal attachment. Love is also a virtue representing all of human kindness, compassion, and affection —"the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another." Love may describe actions towards others or oneself based on compassion or affection.” But does this really describe “love” to its fullest?
As I listened to the other women before me describe their experiences and concepts of love, I realized that what each of them said could also describe a part of my own experiences and/or beliefs. One woman told of her earlier experiences with physical abuse and chemical addictions and how she learned to love and accept herself. Another told of her experiences as a teacher and the love her students gave to her. Another told of her love for God. Every woman had the same but different concept of what love was to her.
When it came to my turn, I told the women how I could relate to each of them. I wasn’t abused by anyone in my life, but I abused myself in the way of negative self-talk, low self-esteem and self worth and how I, too, learned to love and accept myself. As a substitute teacher, I receive the love of young children, particularly the special needs kids, when they give me a hug and tell me they love me. I also told about the total love from my four-legged “kids” (pets). I love to walk down the country road and feel the love from nature, which is an energy that I allow to permeate my being. When I’m among nature, I feel the most connected to Spirit as I breathe in the beautiful fragrances, listen to the music nature’s critters sing, and I absorb the beauty of Mother Earth’s magnificent landscape.
When I have to describe the love of Spirit, I describe it as “pure, unconditional, perfect love.” A love that is all inclusive, all accepting, and all embracing for all people. Jesus said, “Love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV) He didn’t make any exceptions. He didn’t say love only this person or group of people, but not that person or that group of people. And yet we’re seeing a lot of religious leaders and politicians telling people that they have to make those exceptions. Jesus specifically stated that we will know his disciples (those who believe and follow Jesus’ teachings) by the way they love one another. That alone should be a good clue as to whether or not people are really followers of Jesus.
And yet we have all this divisiveness that wasn’t meant to be. Why is it so hard to love a person or a group of people just because they appear different or believe differently than we do? As a minister, speaker, and a volunteer Chaplain at the hospital, I get to talk to a lot of people, and so many people are saying that they are completely turned off to church, religion, and God because of the way they’ve been treated by those who claim to love God, and it breaks my heart. So many will try going to church only to be judged, and many have been told that they’re not welcome there. Is that the love that Jesus taught? Is that the example that he wants us to be?
The Dalai Lama said, “This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.” He has a point. It’s great that we have our religions and our churches, but we need to remember that the love Jesus taught was to love all people; to be kind, have compassion, and to have “the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.”
Love does not change God, but it changes the one who loves.
(Published in the Herald Citizen newspaper on August 24, 2012.)