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  Title: loving one another
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Our aim is to "love one another with a pure heart, fervently" (1 Peter 1.22). This is the King James translation. The RSV translates the Greek word ektenos as "earnestly", which is not incorrect but conveys a slightly different nuance of meaning. "Earnest", in English, has a rather serious, perhaps over-serious, connotation. "With zeal", another possibility, has somewhat fanatical overtones. Actually, the original word literally means "stretched out", and hence can mean earnestly or abundantly. The word "fervent", which perhaps favours the second of these meanings, has the sense in English both of abandonment and emotional warmth.

To live in community is to learn to love. It is said that many waters cannot quench love (Sol. 8.7), but what can and does quench it is our own pain and bitterness of spirit. Love flourishes wherever there is a generosity of spirit, a warmth and openness toward one another. To love, we have to learn to be vulnerable, for the easiest thing to do when we feel pain within ourselves or hostility coming towards us from another is to withdraw, to protect ourselves by shutting the other person out. We may feel justified in the circumstances, or we may feel unable to respond in any other way, yet by closing our hearts to one another we close the door to love.

In his first great hymn to love in 1 Corinthians 13, the apostle Paul says that all the zeal and commitment in the world amount to nothing if they are without love. It is easy to avoid the demands of love by burying ourselves in tasks and activities. Sometimes those of us who have stayed the course for a long time without wavering can feel that everything depends on our commitment. And yet in the final analysis, says Paul, the only thing that really matters, the only thing that never ends, in fact, is love. According to Paul, amongst other qualities love "believes all things". Fundamentally what this means is that love believes love of the other. It does not begin from the standpoint of mistrust, of assuming an intention to wound, hurt or deceive. Believing love sets others free to love. It is the one power or force that continues to release the creative work of God.

In community, we look to see the love of Christ perfected in us. This does not mean that we become perfect people! It is a process, the process of continuous conversion that was described earlier. Perfection in the fullest sense must await the consummation of all things, but we believe the grace of Christ is available for its development in our lives as we open ourselves to one another in love. Such openness is only possible in community, in an environment where all know their connectedness to one another. Only where there is a stable commitment of lives can the risks of love be taken. We may draw the analogy of a family. A child can be angry at its parents, knowing that love will not be withdrawn. Parents can receive the tantrums of their offspring, and still continue to love. However, we are not parents and children; we are brothers and sisters in Christ. All of us must carry the responsibility of loving and of bearing each other's weaknesses.

From a theological point of view, the relationship of brother or sister in Christ is the only human relationship that extends beyond the grave. That is the reason why we make every effort to learn to love one another with a pure (that is, undivided) heart. Naturally, we are tempted to love those we are attracted to, who are like us or who give us something back. Jesus said we are no different than unbelievers when we do that. Friendships based on chemistry or interests held in common may happen in community, but they do not take the place of love which gives every individual a place of dignity, identity and belonging.


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