Love includes making space for others to be.
The act of giving birth to creation was an act of God’s love.
From its first millisecond to its billions of years and incomprehensible vastness,
this evolving, expanding universe is a testimony to God’s love.
No abandoned child, this generous offspring of divine love is also the continuing focus of God’s love and engagement.
There would have been more peace, less chaos, without its substance and movement,
and not least without its evolution of self-willed beings with the capacity not only to share that love but also thwart it.
But love’s generosity takes such risks to bring creativity and life.
Israel’s ancient stories attest to people’s response to God’s engagement in love.
The stories of Jesus’ compassion and generosity are mere traces of God’s immersion, incarnation, in him, in human reality,
creating and recreating possibilities of change, forgiveness and renewal.
We embrace a tradition which flows with instances of such renewal.
But love which enters our reality confronts our unreality and our pretences.
We learn to hate its light, to hide our true selves which in fear and loneliness generate false images,
and to deny the blatant injustices and cries of need in our world and in ourselves.
“Crucify!” is love’s reward. Then love becomes hijacked to describe our passion, our obsession, our devotion.
We deny, exclude, discriminate, in love’s name, believing our love for God makes such demands.
Not just love; God, too, is hijacked to become a symbol not of generosity,
but of our religious zeal to demand what we think people should be and do for their own good.
So biblical tradition is also hijacked to be an instrument of restriction not renewal.
Such conflicts were the setting for Jesus’ counterarguments which appealed to models of healing and family to plead for scriptures’ deeper truth:
God’s confronting generosity, which embraces and restores; a father running to welcome back his son; a stranger stopping off to tend the abused.
So love has its competitors who have co-opted its name and its named source. Depending on its identity love may be dangerous, destructive.
Meaning to control and do its source’s bidding it creates chaos. It learns to hate in such love’s name.
Its loving the Lord its God with all its soul and mind and strength becomes the first step to reversing creation’s generosity,
undoing its birthing, swallowing back the child as it were in merging and submerging, leaving no space to be.
The will to envelope or also to be enveloped, to swallow or to be swallowed up, in the name of love,
holds a fascination, often overtly religious, a flirtation with death, a security in not-being.
Paul confronts the fear that to abandon controlling law might bring chaos.
Instances of abuse at Corinth were surely hard evidence for some that his way abandoned God’s ways and produced lawlessness.
As Jesus faced such confrontation from many of his fellow Jews, Paul did so with his fellow Christians.
The good news was not God’s hands-off abandonment of creation to lawlessness,
nor God’s panicked imposition of controls reinforced by rafts of religious ritual,
but God’s engagement of all humanity in Christ in goodness and generosity, seeking to restore relationship,
and through it continue the creative work of love in the universe.
Such oneness with God’s Spirit naturally bears the fruit of love,
which when allowed to blossom far exceeds what the law’s provisions sought to achieve.
So such love generates love, reproducing itself,
even if the process must work through contaminations internal and inherited which threaten to subvert it,
and so needs focussed attention to reach its goal.
Paul must remind the Corinthians that love means thinking about the consequences,
integrating behaviour with this new intent, letting love generate its own questions and its own path.
Love’s intent is sometimes much clearer than its outcomes,
especially when these are framed in the cultural norms and expectations of any time and place.
There is no escape from grappling with the ambiguities which such contexts generate,
made all the more difficult when they are not recognised for what they are.
This challenge remains. But Paul has no doubt about love’s primacy.
Faith, hope, and love remain, but the greatest of these is love. And it needs to show.
Without it, religion is a distraction and potentially destructive.
Little wonder that in the gospel which most attempts to reflect on love and life, the Gospel according to John, love is the primary mode of God’s being.
Indeed, its later echo, 1 John, twice declares that God is love.
John’s gospel gives us a trinity of love, especially between the Father  and the Son,
which inspired the later doctrine, best expounded as a communion of love.
This gospel’s author simplifies faith to entering oneness with God through Christ, and so finding life’s essentials:
water, bread, light, and resurrection; all this as love, which then connects all – to God and to each other.

William Loader
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