“Love one another.” We hear the words but do we really think about what they mean? In our day-to-day lives? Our interactions with friends and family, people we live and work with? In English the word ‘love’ often takes on a romantic connotation (as in “an office romance”). But the Oxford Dictionary defines love as: (1) deep affection, fondness; (2) sexual passion; (3) sexual relations and (4) beloved one, sweetheart. These days we hear a lot of stories from Hollywood and the world of politics about Nos. 2, 3 and 4 but, unfortunately, we too often forget about definition No. 1.
For example, if we are “fond” of someone we will act toward them in a way that reflects that. There are things we will, and will not, do. If we hold someone in deep affection we are not likely to enter into an unhealthy competition with them. On the contrary, we may actually find ourselves wanting them to win! And if we are fond of someone we will speak well of them instead of gossiping about them and become justifiably upset if we hear someone else putting them down.
Another clue. In our culture the word “love” usually comes back around to us and what makes us happy. But God always points to what makes the other happy. For example, what if the other is our boss? An honest day’s work for an honest’ day’s pay will probably make almost any boss happy. And what if the other is our customer? How happy would he or she be if we delivered a faulty product or failed to live up to our promises? Or what if the other is our employee? No doubt it would make them very happy if we provided a safe work environment and expressed genuine gratitude for their work.
There are many ways to “… love one another,” but we must first learn to understand what the words mean. God invites us to hold one another in deep affection and to work for the good of the other. What would our world look like if we responded to God’s invitation?
Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister, retreat leader, spiritual director and published writer and poet.