'Let all that you do be done in love' 1 Corinthians 16:4
'For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself' Galatians 5:14
'Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony' Colossians 3:14
'Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love' 1 John 4:8
'There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear' 1 John 4:18
The longer I have been on this journey of faith the more I have realised that there is no getting close to God without love. As is so well put by the authors above, God is love and our relationship to that love is shown by our action in the world and how we treat one another. There are no short cuts, there is no getting of the hook. Love is what formed the world and it is what we are made for. Just like skipping 'Go' in Monopoly, we cannot bypass love and still collect £200!
In Paul's classic passage on love in 1 Corinthians, that you have no doubt heard many times at weddings, the characteristics of love are laid bare. Love isn't arrogant or boastful or self seeking. It isn't resentful or irritable or rude. It never fails. I don't know about you but I fail miserably at this love test. And it really is done miserably because lack of love is like a wound within us.
As I reflect on love, and my lack of it, I've come to think it has something to do with the last passage quoted above on the relationship between love and fear. We live with an awful lot of fear in our lives. Fear of what others think of us, fear around our value (or lack of), fear about our place in our own world ( aren't we always questioning if we are even meant to be there?), fear that we are unloved or even simply unlovable. Piles and piles of fear that colour all our interactions and that we act out of constantly.
I am reading an interesting book on this at the moment and the author raised the point that much of our judgement and lack of love for others is often a projection of our worst fears about ourself. I can see a lot of truth in that. When we consciously begin to let go of snap judgements and condemnation of others we can begin to let ourselves of the hook too. When we forgive others, we can forgive ourselves. To love someone doesn't demand their perfection. Likewise we don't need to be perfect to be worthy of love either.
In the Christian story Jesus, God made man, comes to demonstrate true love to humanity. Love that ultimately led him to his death. A key part of that message is that God didn't come to a rescue a perfect world, he came to rescue a world full of war, anger and a bunch of people who just don't know how to love. He came to us imperfect because he knows our true value, that each of us is truly wonderful from the top of our head to the tips of our toes. He sees what each of us should be and can be when we are reconnected to the place that we came from, the beating heart of love that is the origin of all things.
I'm using the phrase 'perfect love casts out all fear' as somewhat of a mantra these days. When I feel insecure and want to act out, when I compare myself favourably or otherwise to other people, when I am irritated or frustrated with someone else I am trying to choose love over fear. With each conscious decision I hope that love will grow, that I will become more who I am meant to be. It's not an easy task but if you're seeking God, I think it is the only real way.