Love: What does it mean to say that the Spirit produces love?
That’s what I am thinking about.
What is the nature of this love, and to whom is it directed?
One of the most challenging thoughts is that the love the Spirit evokes is not only love for God: maybe not even first of all love for God, but love for others, and necessarily also love for oneself.
The Spirit does not, as so often is suggested, lead us to de-value ourselves, but rather to love ourselves, to value and nourish the life we have been given. Only then can we love others, and God.
I say ‘only then’, but it is not a sequence. Rather, the mystery of this ‘fruit’ is that these things come together.
Again, there is something of task and something of gift here.
Recently I found an old collection of popular sayings and songs from the Christian youth culture of the 1960s. There I found this quotation, which is simply acknowledged as being from a poster, ‘The Apostles’ Faith Posters’, and written by Roger Pryke. In this paragraph Pryke suggests that we love when and because we are looked upon with love—and conversely if we do not experience that loving look, we do not live in the freedom of love.
Love comes from the ‘look’ we receive from the Spirit.
‘We grow a human spirit by being held and being looked on with love by our mother and also by others; we are given to ourselves by those who love us.
Conversely, others can diminish or even destroy our spirit by staring at us with hostility and indifference.
So, the eye of God evokes either great warmth or terror in us.
Many people today feel that the eye of God is a searching, hostile, accusing eye that is looking for faults in his people.
This indicates the poverty of our Christian spirit if we do feel uneasy about the eye of God … If we do squirm, feeling that God is looking at us, we have been given a distorted feeling about God our Almighty Father, and this is one of the deep and serious evils that we should be reforming in coming to a renewed faith.’
We need to ‘reform’ this false sense of an accusing God: and how shall we do that, other than to look upon one another with the eye of love?
This is the task, but the task itself implies and requires some level of trust and warmth, towards others and ourselves. Only the Spirit can evoke this.
If we are too hurt or too self-obsessed to reach even a minimal level of regard for others, we will not look to them other than to get from them, to manipulate, or to fend them off.
To love, we must at least be open to others, to look them in the eye, to receive them as fellow persons.
The Spirit calls us into this being-with.
The Spirit is that creative presence within all life which evokes within us the look of love.
The Spirit is that mother, that ‘other’, who looks upon us with love and invites us also to look upon each other with love.
As we do this, we move beyond the sense of accusing, to love: for self, for others, and for God.