Summary: Love is the loftiest word in the human vocabulary. God is love’s home. How do we get home?

The Challenges of Love – Sermon for Suites by the Lake – January 24, 2008

What is it that humans need in order to live? What do we need in order to be alive? You may have heard of something called Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. He said that what humans need is:

To breath, to eat, to drink, to sleep. We need a degree of safety and shelter. We need friendship, family. We need some way of understanding who we are…we need some kind of esteem, some way to value who we are.

And we need to have some way to express who we are…we need the spark of creativity in some manner.

We have a lot of needs, eh? members of this grand and glorious human race. Some may say we’re fairly high maintenance. Some higher than others!

And among our deepest needs, once our basic survival needs are met, is the need for love. And love is a tricky thing. It’s easy to take for granted when you have it. And it’s agonizing when you feel you don’t have it.

Love is a tricky thing. Often there is a lack of love that we feel…a deficit of human love. Often there’s a distorted idea of love as though it were in its truest form and best presentation pure romance.

But of course love is a verb. It may be something we feel, but if we don’t ACT on love, it’s actually not love…it is, rather, sentiment. Love must be enacted in order to BE love.

What are some of the challenges of love? What, for instance are some of the qualities of a really good marriage or deep friendship?

[Forgiveness, Daily Kindness, Self-evaluation – how am I doing? Caring for others as for outselves. Self-sacrifice – moms living for kids, dads doing same and/or working to provide, putting one’s own wants behind those of another].

Those are some of the challenges of love.

Now I’m rather taken with this book. It’s made tremendous sense out of life for me for most of my life. I started reading it 29 years ago, and I came to a point where I wanted to believe it, but in my head I could not, even though much of what I read here resonated with my heart, because it speaks so clearly of love.

So I began to ACT on it, and I found that action removed the doubts that thinking cannot solve. And I’ve found that to be true since…action removes the doubts that thinking cannot solve. [Thanks to Mike Lipkin for that thought]

We’ll come back to that later. Back to this book. This book says two things about love that have always left me thunderstruck. Gobsmacked.

The first is 1 John 4:16b “God is love...”

Now a lot of the time I spent in my adolescence, before I ever heard those three words, was spent looking for love. It wasn’t that I was without love. My mother and father, Eleanor and Lewis, have always been incredibly loving and supportive and caring parents to all four of us kids.

I had the love of friends. I had the love of female friends. But I was still, somehow, empty. I had this idea that there was something more, something that couldn’t be found in music or photography or art.

And at some point, some critical point in an unstable adolescence, I heard these three words: “God is love”…And I was both offended and intrigued. Offended because I had no idea really what “God” was, but I suspected at the time that it wasn’t good.

And I was intrigued because these three words suggested in themselves a definition of something for which I had been seeking an explanation. That was, as I said, love.

And at some point I began to wonder if this deficit I felt, this incomplete experience of life and love that I knew too well…I began to wonder if God’s love, in the absence or in the deficit of human love, could meet my need, the human need…for LOVE.

Now I tricked you a little bit. Preachers sometimes do that. I didn’t read the whole verse of 1 John 4:16. The whole verse says: “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him”.

That actually expanded the problem for me. This suggests that it is possible to LIVE IN LOVE. God is love, it says. And whoever wants to LIVE IN love, needs to live in God. You see how that takes things to a whole new level!?

This notion of love that I had, even as a teenager…that it was something more than I knew, that it was something great to be grasped. There was the suggestion in this and other parts of the Bible that I read that this love could be FULFILLED in a relationship with God.

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