The Love We Give

All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.  –John 1:3

Dear members and friends of the Swedenborgian Church,

Last week, I talked about the restoration of lost love and connection between Creator and humanity as the meaning of Advent (Christmas). This week, I would like to focus on what I meant by “love and connection.” We tend to use the terms “love” and “connection” in pretty much any way we like. But, they become very special when we use them in relationships, especially in relationships between humans, and human relationship with Creator.

In most relationships, connection is the prerequisite to love. Connection has to come first because without being connected internally or mentally (or having a conscious connection between them), two random people might not even be aware of each other! There can be two types of connections: innate and cultivated. Innate connections are those into which we are born, meaning they are set and unchangeable in most of cases. Cultivated connections, meanwhile, are those we gain as we nurture our relationships with other human beings, creatures, and non-human objects. Family is a good example of an innate connection, while friendship is usually a cultivated connection. Having a connection with someone, some being, or something means that one has acknowledged and accepted the object of connection as important to one’s life and gains inner fulfillment and satisfaction through that connection.

When it comes to love, the argument could go on indefinitely as to what it is and how to do it properly. However, the New Testament uses one very specific word to describe the kind of love that Jesus emphasizes to us, whenever he teaches about loving one’s neighbor and the love of God for humanity: agape. According to Greek philosophy, agape describes the highest form of love. When agape love is in one’s heart, one cannot just think and/or talk about the wellbeing of someone or something because one’s love already has made one to be in action. This is what makes agape love the highest form of love: agape love means being in the act of loving for the wellbeing of the object of one’s love. Love of God is always agape because God is love in itself. Thus, God does not love all of us for any one specific reason, but because God is love itself! At the same time, the love of God has only one priority, according to Swedenborg: our spiritual well-being. For humans, agape love is not a natural love to practice, but has to be earned by intentional cultivation. And, one of the best ways to cultivate agape love is to acknowledge and accept the inter-connectedness of each other, and thus our interdependence on each other’s well being.

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee