“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)
The experience of love in this world will always be tainted with perceptions of it that are less than loving. We are surrounded by distorted, weak, and even perverted ways of love. God’s kind of love is not simply a concept that we analyze, define, and then simply live. Love is a way of life on which we discover how to relate to God and others. In some ways it is like a good story, a love story, that we listen to, ponder, talk about and even participate in. It is the one story that “remains” and is the greatest story of all. But it is God’s story and to hear this love story, we have to let God tell it his way.
I grew up on a family farm. In theory someone could learn how to run a farm by reading books, listening to experienced farmers or maybe even getting a degree in agriculture. But the farming life is played out, not as a set of theories or concepts that one learns, but as a grand story of living with, responding to, and joining in the mystery of nature. I learned this story as I walked it out with my father, grandfather and uncle. I learned how to tend to the soil, the timing of planting the crops, the agony of waiting and praying for rain, the anticipation of harvest and the urgent work of bringing in the crops by living out the story year after year.
God's mission is a bit like this. While books, sermons, and concepts about God’s love can be helpful, God’s mission of revealing his love in the world is only truly discovered as we listen to and participate in that story.
As we allow this grand love story to reveal God’s mission of love, we discover over and over that God's mission is different than we expected. The love that God is, is nothing else but a revelation. No man could come up with something like this. A revelation is something that comes to life from outside our preconceived notions or expectations. The revelation of God’s mission of love is always a surprise. It’s always different than we expect. It’s something mysterious and so good that we don’t know what to do with it.
On the farm, life is full of unexpected twists and turns. While there is a degree of predictability, every year looks different. Nature is full of mystery and uncontrollable forces. The story of farming is about learning to work with this wild mystery of God’s creation. Likewise, God’s loving mission is wild and mysterious. It's closer than our own skin but so different from us that we don’t know how to respond to it.
On the farm the mystery of nature keeps the farmer humble because he knows that he is not in control. The farmer is a lifelong learner because the story of farming is never mastered. Likewise God’s love story cannot be mastered; it cannot be controlled. We simply let the story of love enter into our imagination and ask the Spirit to empower us to enter into the story more deeply.