“God is Love”

June 17, 2024 | By His Excellency, The Most Reverend Edward K. Braxton, Ph.D., S.T.D.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

Recently, during an interfaith memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral, the world-famous Chef, Jose Andres, founder of the World Central Kitchen Charity that feeds millions of desperately hungry people around the world, called his seven international aid workers killed on April 1 by Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza, “the best of humanity.” In his eulogy, weeping and overcome with grief, Mr. Andres called each of his beloved workers by name: – John Chapman, 57, Jacob Flickinger, 33, Lalzawmi Frankcom, 43, James Henderson, 33, James Kirby, 47, Damian Sobol, 35, and Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, 26.

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said it was a tragedy that Israel mistakenly killed these seven innocent, unselfish workers in an airstrike that destroyed their clearly marked vehicles traveling down a road that was supposed to be safe for humanitarian aid workers. Chef Andres continues to demand an investigation into the actions of the Israeli forces, saying, “The official explanation was not good enough. There is no excuse for these killings. None. My colleagues were targeted systematically, car by car.”

He said, “Our hearts ache as we mourn these seven souls who left the safety and security of their homes and families to feed starving women and children in Gaza. They risked everything to help people they did not know. Why would they do such a thing over the objections of those who warned them that they could be killed at any moment? ‘Love,’”

said the chef through his tears. “Love is the only answer! No matter what their religious beliefs were, these people did what they did because their hearts were filled with love for total strangers who were starving to death.” Would you do that? Would I?

Yet, this is exactly what Jesus tells us this morning in the Gospel of John. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. This I command you: love one another.”

The New Testament uses several different Greek words for “Love.” When speaking of erotic, sensual, sexual, and procreative love, it uses the word “eros.” When speaking of the love that binds together the members of a family, it uses the word “storge.” When speaking of the deep love that sisters and brothers share, it uses the word “philos.” When speaking of the unconditional, sacrificial, self-giving love that God has for all of creation and for all people everywhere, scripture uses the word “agape.” John c 3:v16, “For God so loved (agape) the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Scripture uses this same word, “agape,” to describe the ideal love that that gives life to the Christianity community. It is surely this agapeic love that Chef Andres is speaking of when he says it is love that motivated his slain food aid workers.

Our second reading from the 1st letter of John (c 4: v 7-10) is as profound as it is brief. If you have the text, please turn to it in order to follow John’s sublime teachings. First, he addresses you and me as “Beloved.” This is a reminder that a central goal of the letter is to form his readers into a community of “beloved disciples.” His first teaching seems rather simple. “Let us love one another.” We know immediately that John is not speaking of “eros,” sensual love. He is not speaking of “storge,” ordinary family love. Nor is he speaking of “philos,” the love of friendship. No, he is asking us to love one another “unconditionally” with the love of “agape.” Then John tells us: “Because Love is of God.” He is challenging us to realize that there can be no genuine love that does not in some way show God’s love, even if we are not aware of it. Next John says, “Everyone who loves is begotten by God, everyone who loves knows God.” But you may object, this cannot possibly be true because we all know people who love others deeply and adamantly protest they do not believe in God. For them, God does not exist. But John is equally adamant, and he goes on to say, “Whoever is without love does not know God.” In other words, if you truly love others unconditionally (remember, he is talking about “agape,” not “eros,” or “philos”), God is working within you even if you deny His existence.

Then John draws a shocking, overwhelming conclusion, “For God IS love.” What could this possibly mean? He does not say, “God is LIKE love.” Nor does he say, “God makes you think of Love.” John says, “GOD IS LOVE!” He concludes by asserting that you cannot possibly understand this teaching if you do not know Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus Christ, who is not only the supreme revelation of God’s love, but also the supreme revelation that God IS love. John writes, “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that God has loved us and sent His Son to atone for our sinfulness.”

What does the phrase “God is love,” mean? The answer is not simple. It is something we cannot comprehend completely. One thing we know from personal experience: God IS love cannot mean that God makes sure that our lives are filled with happiness and joy, with no suffering and no sorrow. It can’t mean that! The poet Dante said trying to understand that God is love is like trying to gather up all of the water of an ocean in your arms. God is love means that in God is the summation of all love; all love comes from God.

When John writes that “God is love,” he means that love is essential to the very being of God. Love is the essence of Divine Being. God cannot be without being love. God cannot create and sustain the vast 15-billion-year-old expanding universe without being love. God cannot save without being love. God cannot judge the living and the dead without being love. God’s love is unending and unchanging. Because God is love, His love is perfect, immutable. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more, and nothing we can do to make God love us less.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ, if God is love, do we sometimes misuse the word, “love?” We say, “I love your new hair style!” “I love the way you have decorated your home!” “I love my new car!” “I love homemade vanilla ice cream with warm peach cobbler!” “I love my wonderful cat, Pheobe!” “I love my faithful dog, Cole!” Really? Perhaps. But this is not the love John is talking about! Should we use some other word?

If God is love, then, is hate the opposite of God? Are those who hate other people because of their religion, nationality, sexuality, and political views; those whose hearts are burning with Islamophobia, antisemitism, racism, and any other form of hatred denying the very existence of God who is love?

Chef Andres World Center Kitchen workers have served 44 million meals in Gaza. Thursday, he announced that after a month of mourning, his trucks are filled with 12 million meals and his workers are returning to Gaza, risking their lives to feed total strangers who are starving to death, because their hearts are filled with love. Would you do that? Would I? Do we have that kind of love? Agape?


Praised be Jesus Christ! Both now and forever! Amen!

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