by Jake Hall

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, 5/15/14

“Love” is a loaded word. What delicious language games we play when we speak the word “love.” When spoken to a beloved, it expresses the depths of commitment and passion. I–love–you. Yet, at the same time, the same word may merely express one’s affinity for a favorite dessert. I–love–ice cream.
Christians are identified as a community of love, but our attempts at defining it often fall short. We are told to have agape love for one another. You know, the kind of love that just keeps on giving. Too often we isolate ourselves by thinking of love as only something to be given and not received.
In order to have true community, we must be vulnerable enough to receive the love of another. So, I, too, will throw in a Greek term to help us conceive of this kind of love— eros. Eros involves both giving and receiving; it is mutual vulnerability.
Jewish theologian Martin Buber stated, “Love is an ‘I’ accepting responsibility for a ‘thou.’” However, we are to be receivers of love as well, open to the love of another. We have many opportunities in the coming weeks to experience this sense of community. Our children ministered to us in song on Wednesday night, proclaiming, “Our God is Great!” Our youth will lead in worship this Sunday, calling us to follow Christ in new ways. This summer brings several missions efforts, moments to be the presence of Christ in Atlanta and in our backyard. Through each of these moments, we are called to be open to receive love as well as to offer it.
To follow Christ we must go beyond syrupy sentimentalities. The love of Christ is dirty and dangerous. Willing to break with social mores, Jesus loved beyond status and in spite of wealth. Both the important and the forgotten found him along the way and he was open to their touch.
May our love go beyond the kind of self giving that isolates and empties us. Instead, may we risk being vulnerable and experience the delight of an open, mutual Christian community.