By Fr. Anthony Odiong
The closest the Christian Scriptures come to defining God is in the first Letter of St. John, (1 John 4:8) when it states that “God is love.” This same passage recommends that we “… love one another, since love is from God.” (1 John 4:7)
We love to love and to be loved. We were created to love, and out of love. It is the ability to love that perhaps best expresses the ‘imago dei’ in us. Our ability to go out of ourselves to delight in a thing or a person for their own sake brings us very close to God.
Ask a child what love is and that child will blow you a kiss – an innocent, sacramental definition of love – way different from the confusion between love and sex in our erotic and ‘feel good’ age today.
According to Josef Pieper, love is the affirmation of the goodness in being. It is a way of turning to a person or thing and saying, “It is good that you exist; it is good that you are in this world.” It is in this sense that Caritas (Agape) has called many saints to devote themselves to working for the wretched of the earth because they are also good. Did Love itself not come down to earth in Christ to affirm that we were so good and worth dying for?
It is always a surprise when someone responds to you in a profound way, or when you find yourself drawn to a thing. However, the love of a person and a thing are quite different. The abuse of love is when we do not distinguish between the love one has for a glass of sweet tea, for instance, and the love one has for a person.
When we love anything, we want to unite with it, to appropriate the good in the other. If it is a thing, an object I delight in, there will not be much of an issue. When it is a person, a thinking subject, it introduces a whole new set of questions.
When a person is good for me, it suggests that I have a superabundant response to that person – a response in mind and heart that will ultimately lead to or imply a union of bodies. This is what a Christian marriage is all about. Only in this context is the superabundant response of a man to a woman consecrated.
Love, properly so called in the Christian sense, is selflessly seeking after the well-being of another. True love has to be essentially selfless. It is this selfless seeking after the other’s well-being that results in happiness. Much of the unhappiness today is as a result of wanting always for me.
As Christians we are called in Christ to love all persons because we hope to share a common bliss. The call to love is mandatory because in the evening of our lives “we will be judged on the law of love.”