In 1st Corinthians 13, Paul writes that love is patient and kind; that love is not arrogant or rude; that love endures all things. One thing he very much does not say, no matter how catchy this McFly song might be, is that love is easy.
It is the same Greek word used by Jesus in Sunday’s Gospel lesson and according the Holli and Brendan on this week’s Collect Call, it serves as the basis for the word which the collect translates as “charity.” Over on that theological treasure trove called Wikipedia, Thomas J. Oord, a modern day Nazarene Theologian, defines Agape as “an intentional response to promote well-being when responding to that which has generated ill-being.” Love really isn’t easy.
But why do we make it so hard? Why is agape so impossible for human beings to pull off when we were created in the image of a God whose very definition, whose full character is love? We’re pretty good at eros (romantic) love, storge (familial) love tends to come pretty naturally for most people, and philial (brotherly/friendship) love seems fairly doable, but it is agape love, the love that God shows us in Jesus Christ, love that seeks the good of another ahead of one’s self, that is so very hard. Maybe it is because above all, we’re good at loving ourselves and so turning that love outward is difficult. Maybe it is because we’ve been burned in other aspects of love and so we withhold the most intimate form of love from the cruelties of this world. Whatever the reason, it comes down to the fact that love isn’t easy, that’s why we pray for help loving, that’s why God commands us to love, that’s why Jesus sums up the Torah as love, that’s why John tells us that God is love. Agape love is a bar impossible to reach, but it is the goal of every human heart.