The author of 1st John makes more than one bold assertion in the course of his five chapter letter. Last week, we heard “God is love,” which, while true, is a deeply profound theological statement. This week, we’re told that God’s “commandments are not burdensome.” In case you’ve forgotten since yesterday’s post, there are, at most, two commandments of Jesus. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus sums up the Law and the Prophets with these words, “Love the Lord your God with all you heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” In John’s Gospel, that list shrinks down to one, “love one another.”
Now, I have been known, from time to time, to be a less than pleasant person. I can be snarky and grumpy and rather impatient. I’m not particularly gifted at loving others in car line or Walmart. I know I’m not alone. There are plenty of others out there who are snarky like me, while others are self-centered or self-righteous or pseudo-self-deprecating. The world is full of people who are hard to love and/or find loving to be hard. The world is full of people who do, in fact, find the commandment to love burdensome. So what, on God’s green earth, is the author of 1st John talking about? I think our Collect for Easter 6B might shine some light on things.
“O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
Our ability to love, like everything else in life, is a gift of grace. It is poured out upon us by God who is love. The reason I’m not good at being loving isn’t because God didn’t make me capable of love, but because I choose to forego God’s gift and follow my own path of general grouchiness. The Good News is that thanks to God’s grace, love need not be burdensome. With the light of Christ shining in the darkness of our hearts, all things are possible, even love toward those who cut in car line on a regular basis. I’m working on it, with God’s help, and you can too. Love really can be not burdensome.