By Laurel Droz (and Pastor Matt with scriptural support)
A lot has been said of love—maybe all there is to say about it has already been written in one form or another. But it still seems to be in short supply in our world so I will add my words on it as well.
The Beatles once famously sang “all you need is love, love, love is all you need,” but people have singing, writing, and pontificating about love since long before that, not only in song but in prayer.
“Where there is hatred, let me sow love.” That’s a line from the Prayer of Saint Francis, known to people of all faiths because of the sentiments it expresses. And it says a lot that’s worth considering, but this bit in particular, “let me sow love” is powerful when you think about it.
We live in a time and place in which love is regarded as a thing that should be effortless. It pours fourth unbidden in love songs on the radio, it swells between main characters on television, it drives the plot of popular novels. It is a powerful force and it is instantaneous, requiring nothing more than our mere presence to unfurl itself.
But that’s not how most love is. Romantic love certainly isn’t without its challenges, but when we think about love in the broader sense—love for the people around us in general—it gets much, much more difficult. Jesus tells us that people will know we are his disciples “if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) He tells us to love our neighbor, but that isn’t always easy. Living close to someone who acts in ways we find unlovable is a deeply unpleasant experience. Moreover, when we think of God and the vastness of the universe, that commandment almost begs the assumption all of us on this tiny blue marble in space are, in the grand scheme of things, neighbors. With all of our conflicts and differences, simple tolerance for one another can seem impossible, let alone love.
That’s why the notion of sowing love, planting little pieces of it all over, is such a wonderful metaphor. When we sow—when we plant—that is an act of faith. We put this tiny little speck of potential into the world and we care for it, we work for it, we keep it safe, and we trust that it might become something nourishing or beautiful or both.
And there is no talk of reaping love. In this case, what we plant is not ours to harvest. It’s there for someone else. It’s a gift given at our own, personal expense, with no expectation that we will ever get any bit of that back. It isn’t easy, it’s far from effortless, but it’s what we are here to do. We are here to put in the hard work of sowing love.
When you are out in this world filled with frustrating strangers, remember they are also our neighbors. Those sad faces on the news living in places we can barely pronounce? They’re our neighbors too. Your most annoying co-worker? Neighbor. Your in-laws? Neighbors. The people who drive you crazy on facebook, the guy who has the worst political opinions, the woman texting in the movie theater, the driver who is going 10 mph below the speed limit—neighbors.
It’s easy to feel lost here on earth, but we are given instructions. By the Beatles, by the Prayer of Saint Francis, by the Bible. Love. They all tell us to love. Where do we get the power to love? It comes from God himself. The Apostle John tells us in his first letter, “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) and our ability and our motivation to love others comes from His love for us. “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
Love thy neighbor, and watch as piece by piece this blue space marble becomes a better place to be. It won’t be easy, but it’s what needs to be done. We are all love farmers here, and Jesus tells us the harvest is plentiful.