Love Never Ends

Love Never Ends

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39 NRSV

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a NRSV

These words describe how God’s love through Christ works towards us and also how we should then love each other. It speaks of an unconditional, covenantal love – a love given from one to another without prerequisite, subtext or agenda.

As I ponder these words together, I am reminded of a couple of quotes from two of my favorite theologians. The first is from St. Julian of Norwich (1342-1416). When she was 30 years old, Julian became so sick that, believing she was near death, they gave her last rites. During her recovery, she had several visions – or showings – that she believed came from God. She spent the next 20 years reflecting on these visions and writing down what she had learned from them. One of my favorites is this:

And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, 'What may this be?' And it was answered generally thus, 'It is all that is made.' I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God.
In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it. The second that God loves it. And the third, that God keeps it. But what is this to me? Truly, the Creator, the Keeper, the Lover. For until I am substantially [made one with Him], I may never have full rest nor true bliss – that is to say, until I be so fastened to him that there is nothing that is made between my God and me. This little thing which is created seemed to me as if it could have fallen into nothing because of its littleness.
We need to have knowledge of this, so that we may delight in despising as nothing everything created, so as to love and have uncreated God. For this is the reason why our hearts and souls are not in perfect ease, because here we seek rest in this thing which is so little, in which there is no rest, and we do not know our God who is almighty, all wise and all good, for he is true rest.
God wishes to be known, and it pleases him that we should rest in him; for everything which is beneath him is not sufficient for us. And this is the reason why no soul is at rest until it has despised as nothing all things which are created. When [the soul] by its will has become nothing for love [in order] to have him who is everything, then is it able to receive spiritual rest.

St. Julian perceives that everything and everyone has been created by God's love for God's love. And if all things have been created as such, then nothing can stand in-between us and God's love for us. . . nothing. In this way, God's love is pervasive throughout all of life – the seen and unseen, the mundane and profound, the joy and the sorrow. And God "wishes to be known" so that our souls may find rest in God's love, that is complete and utter fulfillment in being, purpose and meaning. Julian's revelation seems clear: the rest that the soul needs and for which it longs is only attained through the intentional turning away from the nothingness of the world and the intentional embrace of the everything of God's love.

The second quote that comes to mind is from John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. In his notes on 1 Corinthians, he writes:

Love covereth all things - Whatever evil the lover of mankind sees, hears, or knows of any one, he mentions it to none; it never goes out of his lips, unless where absolute duty constrains to speak.

Believeth all things - Puts the most favorable construction on everything, and is ever ready to believe whatever may tend to the advantage of any one character.

And when it can no longer believe well, it hopes whatever may excuse or extenuate the fault which cannot be denied. Where it cannot even excuse, it hopes God will at length give repentance unto life.

Meantime it endureth all things - Whatever the injustice, the malice, the cruelty of men can inflict. He can not only do, but likewise suffer, all things, through Christ who strengtheneth him.

Love never faileth - It accompanies to, and adorns us in, eternity; it prepares us for, and constitutes, heaven.

Here Wesley gives us a more "rubber-meets-the-road" understanding of covenantal love, a love that is all at once self-giving and self-sacrificing for the sake of another's "advantage." This steadfast love accompanies us to and adorns us in eternity; prepares us for and constitutes heaven.

Herein lies the intersection between Julian and Wesley, this understanding that we were created by Love, called and claimed by Love, surrounded and sustained through Love, and find our true home in Love. A life wholly devoted to this complete realization of God's love is what Wesley referred to as Christian perfection – being made perfect in love of God and love of neighbor. It is a gift of God's grace through our daily surrender to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Resting in this grace is no easy task. I constantly forget that I am loved.......and thank God that there's nothing I can do about it. I also forget that I am called to share that love, to allow God's steadfast, never-ending love to work through me to accompany, adorn, prepare and constitute heaven for others.

O to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; prone to leave the God I love!

Here's my heart, O take and seal it; seal it for Thy courts above.

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