1John 4:7 (NRSV)
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God.
What could be more essential to faith or to life than these words, "Let us love one another, because love is from God?" Dorothy Day got it, "Love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that comes up." John Lennon got it, "All you need is love." At once a commandment and an invitation, the primacy of love is that obvious. And yet it requires repeating, as the writer of First John appreciates. Like a drumbeat, or perhaps a two by four, some version of the word love, agape, appears almost thirty times in the fifteen verses of 1 John 4:7-21. Get it??
Sadly, too often we don't. Because truth be told, love is hard work. Loving another as the German poet Rilke has observed, "is perhaps the most difficult task entrusted to us." It takes time, it takes practice, it takes attention, it takes understanding, it takes action, day in and day out. The efficacy of love is exactly there: in its everydayness, its ordinariness. It is gritty and plain speaking, not gussied up. It's in the small things, not the grand.
It can come, as it did for me recently, through the voice of a New Haven third-grader. Towards the end of my first tutoring session with D'Marcus, I asked if he wanted to play a game. No, he would rather draw. "You draw," D'Marcus said, when I brought him the sketch book that the site director kept for him. Despite my demurring, he insisted, so I picked up a pencil and, holding it suspended over the page, I laughed and said, "I am a terrible drawer."
"You shouldn't be so hard on yourself," D'Marcus responded. I loved that. Out of the mouths of "babes." Encouraged, I proposed drawing a picture of my dog, Dani. I really am a terrible drawer, but as I sketched Dani's head and body and then her beautifully feathered tail, I started having fun. D'Marcus, ever appreciative, said, "Oh, that's good." Then he looked intently, and with the gentlest of voices said, "Don't ever give up on yourself." No doubt D'Marcus had heard these words spoken to him, a gift that he then passed on. Such is love in action, a gift from God that we are called to pass on.
God, you pour out your love and embrace us so passionately, persistently, generously and abidingly. Help us to pass on such love, hugging others, whether verbally, physically, or however, in the day-to-day of our lives. Amen.