The old, gray-headed apostle sits in the open courtyard of his modest home. He’s seen it all. From the beginning with Jesus. The threat and fear of the upper room. The efficiently violent torture of a Roman execution. The dawning of unimaginable hope on the third day. The energetic spread of the message of reconciliation through these small communities who gather in homes every first day of the week to break bread and remember.
Now he’s the last of the old guard left. Many others were killed for their words. But for some mysterious reason he’s the last of the apostles. It won’t be long now. He too will be gathered up into that final journey. By now so many of his companions have preceded him, most of the time that next life seems somehow more real, more fraternal to him than this one.
But before that inevitability comes, he has a project. He wants to pass on some of his lived wisdom; some of the hard-earned truths that he has come to know in these momentous decades. So he calls his scribe over to his side, and he dictates the words he believes are most important for him to leave behind to his family, those other followers of Jesus who will carry on the message but who weren’t there way back when. He calls them and us his "beloved." And sometimes, especially when he must chide a bit, he addresses them and us as "my little children."
And when this old man speaks of what he has learned, he comes back over and over to one reality. Love. In the final analysis, it’s all about love. "Love one another," he tells his beloved little children. It’s the only rule; the one commandment; the summary of the law. "Love one another," he tells us, "like you have been loved by the Father and the Son." That is the Spirit we live in. Love. Abide in love. Walk around in love. See everything through the eyes of love. Let yourself be bathed in love. It’s all about love.
According to this now-ancient sage, it gets pretty simple. "God is love." Can you sense his intensity, like someone’s last words before a last breath. It’s like he’s saying, "Listen. I don’t have much time left. This is very important. Critical. You’ve got to hear me. You’ve got to get this." And he coughs a time or two from the exertion. He catches his breath, then the fire from his eyes searches your eyes to see if you are really listening this time. "God is love!" he repeats with passionate conviction.
This old man who is nearly within the final step of his life is calling to each of us: "Wake up! God is love. Abide in love." When you’ve seen everything that I’ve seen, and you know what there is to know, it’s all about love.
God is love, he says. And everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
How expansive and universal his vision has become. You only have to love. And hasn’t every person who has ever lived experienced love? Everyone has been loved at some time. And everyone has loved. Love is the universal.
What if you and I lived with this single thought as our central filter for life? How would your life be different if you bought what this old apostle is claiming — God is love. That’s what old John is saying to us. Everything that is alive is alive in love. Everything that happens, happens out of the energy of love. Every person that exists has their being in love. You’ve only got two choices. You can be conscious or unconscious. Conscious of the love God has for you and all that exists, or unconscious of that love.
When you were a baby you were blissfully unconscious of your being grounded in love. You didn’t know, couldn’t know that God is love. But you experienced that love in the care you were given by your family. But when you started to wake up, when your deepest longings for love began to stir, you did not experience everything as love. That’s what makes growing up and being an adult such a nightmare of misery and alienation. We experience the absence of love. We suffer.
But every once in a while, we intuit something far deeper than our alienation. Occasionally love sneaks in upon us. We see a baby sleeping, a robin in its nest, the sun beaming on a flower, the deep acceptance of a friend. We hear a familiar hymn, feel the transcendent in bread and wine, sit in a silence that is dazzling. Every once in a while love breaks through, and it feels more real than anything else.
That’s what the old man is so anguished to tell us. That love IS the most real thing there is. It’s so real, that it’s not even a thing. It’s more than a thing. It’s the ground of everything. He’s seen it through the cross. Under the horror of injustice, pain, and torture, love is. He’s seen it through his friends’ deaths. Under the grief and loss and fear, love is. He’s been touched so deeply by this love that there is no more room in him for fear. Indeed, he says, perfect love casts out fear.
You and I don’t have to be afraid anymore, he tells us. We don’t have to feel alienated, or worried. When you know deep down in your bones — it’s all love.
Gerald May, the psychiatrist writes, “searching beneath anxiety, one will find fear. And beneath fear hurt will be discovered. Beneath the hurt will be guilt. Beneath the guilt lie rage and hatred. But do not stop with this, for beneath the rage lies frustrated desire. Finally, beneath and beyond desire, is love. In every feeling, look deeply. Explore without ceasing. At bottom, love is. “
The only question is whether we are able to see the love that is already there. Whether we are awake, aware of love. It’s like being in the atmosphere of air. "We exist, as one, immersed in love, more deeply than in the air we breathe." (Ibid, p. 86) We’ve only got two choices — to be conscious or unconscious of the love we live in.
What would your life be like if you let yourself be in love? See everyone with the eyes of love — especially yourself. Experience everything through the filter of love. Recognize everything, even the rotten stuff, as having its origin in love and most certainly returning finally to love. The old apostle is telling us that its really that simple. Hard, maybe, but simple. To abide in love is joy. It’s also the most real thing you can do. Because God is love.
At the end of things, at the bottom of everything is love. Love defines every moment. You are either conscious of love and awake and alive; or unconscious. God is love. As God is; so you are.