The Christian faith is essentially about love – because God is love.
At Christmas, we celebrate God’s love for us in coming to share our human life in the person of Jesus. At Easter, we celebrate the depths of that love in dying for us, and its triumph over death itself in the resurrection. At Pentecost, we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, ‘power from on high’, to enable us to love as God has loved us.
It’s as simple as that, really. The problem – in case you hadn’t noticed – is that we don’t manage to love as God loves us. As we celebrate the Advent of the Prince of Peace this Christmas, the world is filled with conflict. One hundred years after the ending what was referred to at the time as ‘the war to end all wars’ there is still so much violence, bloodshed and oppression in the world.
Why is that? I suggest that the main reason we do not love as we ought is that we cannot, deep down, believe that we are loved or even loveable. Most of our ‘sinfulness’ – in Christian terminology – derives from an insecurity, a deep dis-ease within.
Ever since I became a Christian I have believed that I am unconditionally loved – in my head. The trouble is I couldn’t quite believe in my heart that anyone, let alone I, could be unconditionally loved. Until I became a parent, that is. I then felt an extraordinarily powerful and quite unconditional love for my children, and still do. I spoke to my daughter about this the other day and she feels the same about her two-year-old daughter.
Now I can believe that God loves me unconditionally – with my heart as well as my head. I have a long way to go but it has made me more loving.
My prayer this Christmas is that, whether or not we are parents, we shall be given grace to believe with all our heart that God loves us more than we can possibly imagine with a love that is stronger than death and which will stretch into all eternity. Then we might be able better to love as God loves us.
Rt Revd Dr John Inge
The Bishop of Worcester