Love binds and builds, heals and hallows, redeems and restores. A broken world can expect all this and more, say our Johannine scriptures, when God’s power courses mystically through human events. John 10 finds the shepherd Jesus foretelling self-sacrificial love for the sheep. In John 15, Jesus calls the faithful to be willing to lay down their lives for their friends.
1 John 4 focuses on the intimate nature of God’s love for us, which evokes our love for others, while the next chapter equates the love of God with keeping the divine commandments. On the stage of Acts 1, 4, 8, and 10, the fruit-bearing and inclusive nature of divinely inspired love is dramatized by the great cast that is the early church.
This month’s passages offer both a head-on command to love and a traveler’s guide to the nature of love itself. John makes up only 10 percent of the New Testament, yet it provides a full third of the references to love. “Love” appears in John more often as a verb than a noun. Feelings won’t suffice. Actions must prevail.
The Holy One leads us beside still waters and restores our souls, whether we are Gentiles, eunuchs, or the homeless of Detroit. This power of life originates from God in every moment, forming living, healthy relationships.
God chose to enter history and love us. We must choose to love others and head into a world that doesn’t like those who love unconditionally.
Robert Roth is a writer and social activist in East Lansing, Michigan.
A Shepherding Love
Acts 4:5-12; Psalm 23; 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18