Missional Small Groups.) He said, "Where there is no love, put love -- and you will find love." I believe that he hit the nail on the head, but he had an understanding of love that most of us can't even fathom. His wrote of encounters with the God of love that is quite frankly humbling to say the least. To give love we must realize the hidden dimension of encountering the God of love. And besides, we use the word "love" to mean so many different things in the English language (see my post of the different meanings of the word). I don't think Aerosmith's "Love in an Elevator" fits what St. John meant.
You might say that the kind of love that he was talking about was self-giving and other oriented. Granted. I agree with this. But in our culture, this kind of language usually is associated with one person being taken advantage of by another. So self-giving gets equated with being manipulated.
While I don't want to do away with the word "love" it is hard word to use without tons of qualifiers. The word "beauty" offers us an imaginative metaphor that encapsulates what God's love looks like, while at the same time opening our imaginations to the potential of so much more: of communion with a beautiful God, of connecting in a rich life with real friends, of engaging the world around us to offer it beauty. As Isaiah said, the Spirit of the Lord comes to offer "a crown of beauty instead of ashes" (Is. 61:3).
- If we think about our life with God, are we encountering beauty or are we going through the motions?
- If we think about our life in community, are we really connecting or are we just having Bible studies?
- If we think about our life in the midst of this tragic and less than beautiful world, are we just going with the flow or are offering an alternative of forgiveness, hospitality and generosity.
If you are looking for a way to go deeper with these questions, here's a study guide that can help you reflect. (Missional Small Groups Study Guide).
May the God of beauty meet you in the fullness of his love. May the beauty of community wrap God's arms around you. And may your life shine beauty with every step you take.