“… if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” — 1 Corinthians 13:2-3
God’s greatest gift to humanity is love. Love is the gift which makes everything else worthwhile. Love is the glue meant to hold together the community which is humanity. God loves absolutely and unconditionally, and as followers of Christ, we are meant to love similarly. We are meant to love someone as they are, not as we want them to be. We are meant to meet every member of humanity where they are when we find them and be a physical extension of God’s love for them.
If we love someone as we want them to be, then this isn’t truly love but instead is hope. The difference primarily lies in the level of acceptance we offer others. Are we willing to see someone where they are in the moment, recognize them for who they are as an individual, all the choices they have made and the path’s they have walked, and say “I love you”? This is such a simple statement with an ocean of depth behind it. Loving someone implies acceptance of them, compassion for them, recognition of their hopes and intentions. Loving someone means at the bare minimum passive acceptance of their journey as a fully realized child of God. At best, we work to help them on their journey just as we need assistance on our own journey.
Recently, I have been dealing with this process in people’s responses to me. My significant other and I have recently become engaged, and the discussions about the religious interactions present at the ceremony have been a topic of discussion in my extended family (which is a mixture of many takes on Christianity as well as other faiths). Not all agree with us, which they have made quite clear on occasions. I have been struggling with seeing the love which should be present in their own Christian faith as well as trying to continue embodying such a love as I should still show them in my own faith. As I work through this, I keep coming back to a recent quote of Pope Francis:
“At times, I find myself in front of persons who are very rigid, an attitude of rigidity. And I ask myself: How come such rigidity?” And when one digs deeper, he said, one discovers that “this rigidity always hides something: insecurity, or at times something else…. Rigidity is defensive. True love is not rigid.” — As quoted in “America: The National Catholic Review”, Dec. 19, 2016.