Love is a Path.
Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–as her great love has shown.
– Jesus, Luke 7:47
Corporately, it seems like Love is generally treated as some hippy sentiment without much backbone. We don't focus on it too much, nor do we regularly practice it purely. It's a defense mechanism or lure to bring people to church and not much more than that. Our emphasis is on doctrine, theology, and knowledge. We treat Divine Love as if it will be the result of those things, not the other way around. Jesus modeled the exact opposite for us.
It may be because Baby Boomers are leading churches now and they saw first hand the pain that the 60's resulted in when Love was confused with emotional self-centeredness, or because literally applying Jesus' words and example of Love to our lives and churches seems unrealistic and would cost us too much. It's probably a safe bet to say it's a mixture of the two. I know that's sadly been true for my own life and journey.
I recently read a quote from one of Pope Francis' homilies that inspired me deeply. He said, "Don’t be afraid of using your intellect, see what love might teach you about faith, and stay on the path. Then one day, you may be surprised to discover that you are in a relationship with God and, more important, that God is in a relationship with you."
Love is a path. It's not just something you come across one sunny day. It is the Greatest Path.
When you choose love (not just forgiveness) over bitterness or anger, you are following closely in the footsteps of Christ. When you choose selfless service over comfort, you are brushing shoulders with God's Holy Spirit at work. When you choose peace over anxiety, you are taking God by the hand and moving forward.
What can this closeness with God be compared to?? Nothing. But for the sake of effort, it is like falling out of a plane and discovering you can fly.
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
– Jesus, Matthew 22:37-40