God’s Abounding Gift

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

John 13:34

Dear members and friends,

Unlike most people, I was very hesitant to use the word “love” for a long time. The first time I felt comfortable and confident enough to use the word “love” was after I married my wife! One reason for this was because I never experienced anyone using this word with me in my life except my mother, whose use of the word was always very confusing and troublesome. For example, my mother would complain to me about how problematic my existence was to her and then end her complaints by saying, “Son, you should know that I love you.” At that time, she was married to a man who was purposefully not informed of my existence, much less that I lived with her former-husband’s parents. When she took me from my grandparents’ house to live with her aunt, her husband found out that she had lied about me and became angry with her. But somehow, she blamed me for this trouble she caused on her own. For the next ten years or so, I was living with her off and on, very rarely in the same house, and her use of love was always accompanied by a complaint or insult. For my mother, “I love you” meant “you should do what I demand of you, because that is the only way you are worth something to me.”

It was Jesus in the Gospels who taught me about the proper meaning of the word “love.” But it took me years of meditation and reflection until I was able to grasp what Jesus means by it. In a way, the love that Jesus preached is almost the exact opposite of how mother used the word love. The love of Jesus is that “I am willing to do what is important and necessary for your wellbeing because I care about you, and you are important to me.” In John 13, Jesus teaches, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” Before commanding the disciples to love one another, Jesus already had loved them completely and fully. Jesus loved them not because of their position, wealth, or what they could do for him, but simply because of their humanity itself and for their joyful life. This is the love that Jesus came to teach us: we love each other not because of physical beauty, personal preferences, fame, money, or power, but for the sake of humanity itself and joy. Merely being human is a gift of love, because within each human heart the Creator is present, and each human heart is a potential heaven. By loving each other without earthly conditions, we might be able to support and nurture each other in our internal journey of becoming heaven. This was the mission for which God incarnated.   

My brothers and sisters in God, this is the season when we celebrate the birth of Christ. Let us take a moment to reflect on love this week. Let us have a deep reflection on the word “love.” What does it truly mean to say, “I love you?” 

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee