By Dr. Dencio Acop
Love is probably the most significant thing in this world. But what is love? Where does it come from? Do we know love? Do you have it in your life? I venture to write about love from when there was none of it known to man. When it came into being among men. And finally, as it is mistakenly known to be other than this love in the arguably now post-Christian era.
We can call the time before God appeared to Abraham the first phase of the story of love when love did not yet exist. Can you imagine all those centuries before God appeared to man? Then, there was no love. There was only man. And the other creatures. There were no laws that governed creaturely behavior. There was only the law of the jungle. Eat or be eaten. Kill or be killed. Surely there was procreation among humans. But was there love? Was it love? It was most certainly instinct. The instinct of survival. The dominance of the strong over the weak. The survival of the fittest over the less fit. Whatever there was at the time, it certainly fell short of the optimal essence of man’s purpose and meaning in life.
All that changed in the succeeding phase of man’s journey on this earth when God suddenly appeared to Abraham. Though God loved the world, as He always have, the world certainly did not know God, much more love. At that point, love was one-sided. While God loved the world into being, the world did not love God back. How could it? It did not know that there was a Creator-God. When God appeared to Abraham, Moses, and the Prophets, God merely got patriarchal fear as a response from man. Without demonstrated miracles of protectionist power for His chosen people over their enemies, God was quickly forgotten in favor of material idols and momentary pleasures. The profound essence of God’s care eluded the Israelites. Until the next phase so people can finally believe and discover love.
The reason why God sent us His Only Begotten Son did not fully manifest, even after His death on the cross, until the descent of the Holy Spirit. Nor was it fully revealed during the life of Jesus until then. Man did not know what love was. Until Jesus. Until the Holy Spirit. Jesus was the incarnate Son of God whose life revealed the reality of love between God and man through himself. Man no longer had to grope and wonder what kind of relationship God wanted from His creatures. God revealed this relationship in and through Jesus Christ. With the humanly manifestations of divine love through Jesus, man came to know love for the first time. It was no longer fear that made man follow God. It was love personified in Jesus. No man would willingly die for his friends if it was not out of love. No man would do as Jesus did in His time if it was not borne out of love. Still, man was confused about this strange emotion that they felt in their encounters with Jesus. Only upon Jesus’ death on the cross and the succeeding Pentecost did man finally feel love in its completed form with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit: the love that exists between the Son and the Father. The Holy Trinity. Connecting heaven and earth through Jesus Christ, particularly His unblemished sacrifice transforming all humanly sacrifices to become worthy of God’s acceptance.
Man is by nature selfish. But the Holy Spirit changed all that. Recall that upon the descent of the Holy Spirit, the apostles were transformed. From being cowards shivering with fright in the Upper Room, the apostles were soon out proclaiming the Good News. And eventually martyred too like Jesus. Yes it was courage they suddenly exhibited. But where did that new-found courage come from? It came from Love. At that point, the apostles and the two Mary’s in Jesus’ life were the first humans who experienced the Love bequeathed by the Lord’s resurrection and ascension to the Father. Jesus’ self-giving Love on the cross was made manifest by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit deep in the hearts of the apostles. The kind of love that made man do anything and give everything, including one’s own life, for the sake of a beloved. It is the kind of love that lives even when one dies. That continues to live in the beloved others who manifest it in the way they conduct their relationships with their beloved as exemplified by Christ. This has been the legacy of Jesus: the Source of Love that lives unto this day. And how we know it is not true love that does not imitate the self-giving love of Christ.
Now there is also the love that is often cited by the Post-Christian Era. Which is really anything but love. And equally absurd to be called post-Christian. As there is no such thing when there are two billion Christians on the planet and still growing. Love, as it was handed down to us in its original substance and form, was that exhibited, demonstrated, proclaimed, and lived by the Son of God when He walked the face of the Earth. It is the same Love personified by the Holy Spirit who lives in each of all baptized Christians. This is the one true love that all of us seek but few of us ever find. It is characterized by one and only one attribute: Obedience. Why and how did Christ live the way He did? The Lord’s answer to this question is all over the New Testament: Because it is the will of His Father. Here we need to understand that it is the Creator-God Jesus was referring to: the One who is Perfect in every way and knows all things. As such, the Father deserves but one response from His creatures: Obedience. To God who is All-Perfect Love. This is how we should love, be loved, and have love in our lives. And every other good thing in this life will flow. The Good Book and all true references to God advice us on how to love the original way. The joy in your heart and peace in your soul is the quintessential gauge of this original love.