Church column - Love is the meaning of everything

The United Church of Bute
The United Church of Bute

Years ago, I had a group of young people at the church I was in, who were at the age when love was getting very real.

They had their first girlfriends or boyfriends; inevitably, some of them were experiencing a breakup, and they thought it was the end of the world. In a sense, it was. A loving relationship is a world, full of the contents of two lives.

You’re my world, you are my night and day. You’re my world, you’re every prayer I pray. If our love ceases to be. Then it’s the end of my world for me… (If you’ve been a Minister for 36 years, you can even squeeze theology out of Cilla Black lyrics!)

In order to love, and to share yourself with someone else, you have to drop your defences. Rothesay Castle is a magnificent structure – but it’s hardly a symbol of love!

Yet if you make yourself vulnerable, drop your defences, so as to love another person, and you do get hurt – well, the temptation is to put up the walls again, retreat behind your fortifications, pull up the drawbridge, and peer out on the world from behind your battlements.

Wouldn’t it be easier to conclude that love, in the real world, is far too risky? Wouldn’t it be more rational to live according to those two maxims, “Do unto others before they do unto you,” and “Get your retaliation in first!” Look out for number one. As Dionne Warwick sang: What do you get when you fall in love? You only get lies and pain and sorrow. I’ll never fall in love again.

Love is a risk. So why do it?

In a way, we all know the answer to that. It’s because a life without loving and being loved somehow misses the whole point. But for the Christian tradition it’s to do with what God is. God is love.

Jesus’ story is a real-world story. Jesus of Nazareth comes to live a risky, open and loving way of life in the real world, and calls other people to share it. He offers them love. And they respond. But not all of them. So he gets crucified for it. As Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe puts it: this is a crucifying world, and if you love enough in a world like this, you’ll get hurt. In fact, if you love enough, they’ll crucify you. But crucifixion isn’t the end of the Easter Story. Love really does conquer all. It is the meaning of everything.