What Manner of Man
(A weekly program for knowing and following Jesus Christ)
By Richard M. Eyre
Month 6: His Love
“Love…as I have loved you”
WEEK 21: CHRIST IS LOVE
One of my most treasured possessions is a letter of love and counsel written to me by my father when he was on his deathbed. A focal point of that letter reads:
“The greatest thought that Christ left on earth is love. It surpasses everything else. If a person practices love, then everything else takes care of itself.”
I have already mentioned the snowy Christmas Eve when I asked my four-year-old daughter why Jesus came to earth. She answered: “To show us how to love each other and to show us how it will work when we die.”
Beyond his atonement, what is “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13)? Perhaps more than all else, as my four-year-old implied, it is Christ’s perfect love.
Not until Christ came (and since then, only because of him) could mankind know the full meaning of love.
Before his life, in most societies, “love” meant friendship, loyalty, affection for one’s own. The Savior gave depth to the surface, dimension to the flat. He added charity, empathy, magnanimity; he added the hard, self-sacrificing elements of love to the easy, self-serving aspects.
The coin of love, in many earlier philosophies, had revenge on its other side people expressed love for friends and colleagues, hatred and vengeance for enemies. Cicero dated his letters from the “happy event” of his enemy’s (Claudius’s) death. Xenophone, a favorite disciple of Socrates and Plate, praised and eulogized his hero Cyrus the Younger by saying, “No man ever did more good to his friends and more harm to his enemies.”
Jesus Christ revolutionized the western world’s concept of love. Since Christ, forgiveness has been acknowledged as one of the greatest virtues. Tennyson represents King Arthur as near perfect because Arthur forgives Guinevere after she has deeply wronged him. Christ’s instructions to “turn the other cheek” and “love your enemy” have counterparts in many behavioral codes. Even governments and constitutions take the posture of “reform rather than revenge.”
The Lord taught the world about rue, unconditional love. He acted rather than reacted. When he saw unkindness in other people, he took it as a sure sign that they needed love and help.
As with all else (and somehow even more than with all else), he was what he taught. He is love.