Where Is Love?

May 06 2018

WHERE IS LOVE?

How many bad relationships have you had? How many lost friendships? Do you have any family members from whom you have become estranged? All of those relationships probably started out ok, but as the years went on, you grew apart. It’s not always lack of commitment that breaks up relationships. Sometimes people just change or move in different directions – and that’s ok.

Perhaps, in view of what I just asked, it is difficult for us to understand an all-encompassing, unconditional love - the love that we have from God made known to us through the life of Jesus. It is a love that holds no regard for the trappings of the physical – for looks, for jobs, for wealth. God makes no race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or cognitive ability decisions when it comes to love. God simply loves unconditionally. God loves us simply for who we are and will not stop loving us.

When we try to relate that unconditional love to our own circumstances, it’s hard. We have a tendency to fear what others may think, to fear loss, to fear giving up too much of ourselves. As a result, we all live out our own version of what we think is love, wonder how we can then be unhappy in love, and then wonder how God could possibly love us unconditionally when we see all around us the evidence of failed relationships.

“In the lore of a tribe in West Africa, there is a story called "The Legend of the Sky Maiden." The story begins when members of the tribe are facing a milk shortage. Their cows are not producing like they used to. A young man volunteers to watch over the cows at night in search of a clue to what might be happening. He hides himself behind some bushes and waits. Finally, he sees something extraordinary ...

A young woman of astonishing beauty rides a moonbeam down from heaven to earth carrying a large pail. She milks the cows, fills her pail, and climbs back up the moonbeam to the sky. The young man cannot believe his eyes. He must learn more about this mysterious maiden who comes down from the sky. So he sets a trap near the cow barn and the next night, when the maiden comes down to milk the cows, he captures her. "Who are you?" he asks. "I am a sky maiden," she replies. "I live with my tribe up in the sky, where we have no food of our own. It is the duty of us sky maidens to come down to earth at night to find food. But, please sir, release me from this net and I will do anything you ask." The young man replies, "I will release you if you promise to marry me." "I will marry you," the maiden says, "but first you must allow me to return home to prepare myself." The young man agrees.

When the sky maiden returns, she is carrying a large box. "Take this and keep it for me," she says to the young man. "Then I will marry you and be a good wife. But you must promise never to look inside the box." They live happily together for a time. Then, one day, when his wife is not at home, the young man opens the box and looks inside. The box is empty. When the wife returns, seeing that her husband has opened the box, she says, "Because you looked inside the box I cannot remain with you any longer. I must leave." "Why?" her husband asks. "What is so terrible about looking into an empty box?" She answers: "I'm not leaving you because you opened the box. I thought you would. I'm leaving you because you said it is empty. It isn't empty. It contains the light and air and smells of my home in the sky. When I went home I filled that box with everything that is most precious to me. How can I be your wife if what is most precious to me is emptiness to you? ("Preachers’ Illustration Service #1835 taken from

Kushner, H., "Who Needs God," Summit Books, 1989 (Adapted).)

Some might ask, “How could the young man relate? How could the young man know?” But is that really the point of the story. Isn’t the point of the story that he should have asked her what was so precious inside that box? Isn’t the point that he should not have judged her? Isn’t the point that he should have wondered about the importance of the real contents of the box and asked her about the importance before opening it? Isn’t the point that he should have cared and loved enough to ask her to share her homeland with him? Isn’t the real point that he should have loved more? And isn’t the REAL issue why did he marry her in the first place? Was it really for love?

God calls us to keep the commands that God has given us so that we may love one another. How strange is that! Keep my commands so that you may love. Perhaps what God is trying to say through the writer of John is that through the explanations Jesus gave to the people, through the ways in which he treated the people, through the life he lived, God wanted to send us a message that viewing the life of Jesus can give us a glimpse into the love of God, and all God is asking by God’s commands, is that we exhibit the love we have come to know through the life of Jesus.

I don’t think there will ever be a time for us when we do not doubt the love of another, and do not doubt the love of God, especially when we face difficult times or difficult decisions. But maybe it’s like the older couple in this story:

“An older couple were out for a Sunday drive. As was customary, the husband was driving and his wife was leaning against the door on the passenger side. They were in a hurry, and had come upon a much slower moving vehicle ahead. They noticed that the driver ahead was a young man, with a young woman sitting very close, almost in his lap. From time-to-time the woman would stroke the driver's hair and occasionally kiss him on the cheek.

The elderly woman in the car behind turned to her husband and said, "Why don't we sit together like that young couple any more?"

The husband snapped back, "I haven't moved!"

Relationships can grow cold over the years. There may be someone you love---husband, wife, child, parent, friend - with whom your relationship has cooled.

There is also our relationship with God which, for some of us, is described on a bumper sticker. It reads, "IF YOU'RE NOT FEELING CLOSE TO GOD ANYMORE, GUESS WHO MOVED!" (The Preachers’ Illustration Service - #1810)

Where is love? Who has moved in your life? Amen.