Category: Jesus - Anna S. Christie, B.A., M.Div., RCC
 
If I'm going to write a book about communities of love, defining love will be important. It's problematic that we only have one word in English for a number of concepts. Reminds me of the old joke: a man says to his psychiatrist "I really need help doctor. My problem is....I love pancakes."

And the psychiatrist says "Well that's not a problem. I love pancakes too!"

"Really?" says the man. "That's great! Cuz I have trunks and trunks full of them!"

Love is so many things. Wikipedia, quoting both Oxford and Miriam-Webster dictionaries says this about love in the first paragraph: "Love is an emotion of strong affection and personal attachment. Love is also a virtue representing all of human kindness, compassion, and affection; and 'the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another'."  That's not bad. I was expecting something stupid when I went there looking, but I'm pleasantly surprised.

My favourite definition of Love, which I wrote of extensively in Evoking Change, and identified with the capital letter "L" whenever I used it, is by the late Dr. Scott M. Peck: "Love is the willingness to extend oneself for another's (or one's own) spiritual growth." It's my favourite because I like the part about growing spiritually. I suppose that's another concept that needs to be defined though.

Jesus was famous in his own time on earth for one thing: preaching about love. Or Love. In fact he reduced the whole Law and the Prophets to one line from Leviticus: "Love your neighbour as yourself." Of course some smartass lawyer had to stand up and ask "who is my neighbour" prompting Jesus to become more obscure, as he was wont to do, in the telling of the parable of the Good Samaritan. One thing is clear in the parable, however, and that is that the one who loved the hurting man was the one who helped him, bound his wounds, and put him up in a hotel to heal. Jesus thus defines love (in this instance) as compassion, kindness, affection.

Unfortunately in the church people often think "love your neighbour" means "be nice to people." No matter what they do. Even if they set out to sabotage the minister and destroy the church. Love is not "niceness" - that is something else. It's niceness. Love involves truth-telling, for shielding someone from the natural consequences of their behavior is not love, it's cruelty.

How do you define love as it would apply to faith communities? Jesus commanded us to "Love one another as I have loved you." How did Jesus love the disciples he