What is Love?

When I first started working at the hospital, on my first overnight shift there was an emergency that came in around the midnight hour. There had been a gang related shooting. In response the ER shutdown refusing entrance of any non-hospital staff. In the midst of the emergency the doctors and nurses called the chaplain. So, I hurried down thinking that I was going to say some prayers and comfort some family members. Well that was not quite what the hospital staff had in mind. They needed me to go into the waiting room and to inform the fellow gang members that they could not go back to be with their friend or family member. To say the least, I was surprised that this would be my job. I was nervous and a bit scared. I had never even met a gang member before and I had no idea how I was going to speak to them and what their reaction might be. But I did it anyway. I spoke to them the only way I knew how and I sat with them as they waited for news. I also stayed with them through the emergency surgery until about 7 AM when they eventually received news that the person passed away. Those individuals were nothing but respectful to me. They were appreciative of the comfort I offered, the prayer we did together, and the fact that I did not leave them alone in their hour of need. By the end of the experience, I had forgotten that I sat with gang members who had participated in gun violence and had themselves done some terrible things. I realized that in our grief and pain, we are all the same. So often we judge people by the way they look or the titles attached to their names. In this case, I made snap judgments based on the tattoos that covered their bodies and the gang violence they were just in. I am a bit ashamed of those snap judgments. I learned an important lesson about what God intends love to look like with this experience. Augustine taught, “What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has the eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like”.1 Jesus urged people to treat one another with love and respect, no matter who they are, no matter what they look like, no matter who is there to see the good works. He urged people to help those in need, to see in that suffering person ourselves and our own needs and to treat each other with the same love that we would want to be treated with. Jesus very purposefully chooses for the main character of his parable to be a Samaritan because in society people from the area of Samaria were seen as bad Jews. They were thought to be corrupt and even dangerous and evil people. What we see, though he was of that heritage, he was not a bad person. He was not uncaring. He cared little for the praises of others. He anonymously took care of the man left to die by the pious. This shows us that we never know the heart of people. We should never judge people by what they look like or what their background is. We should seek to help people because that is what we would want others to do for us. We should be less concerned with ourselves and more concerned with caring for the needs of those who find themselves wanting. This boils down to what is love, what does it look like, and what does feel like. What is the definition of love? (let congregation answer) Our dictionary defines it as, “the passionate affection of one person for another”.2 My biblical dictionary expands this to say, “unselfish, loyal, and benevolent concern for the well-being of another”.3 Love is actionable. God intends us to love one another as the Samaritan did through our actions, through the works of our hands, through the care of our hearts, through the way we touch the lives of others. This includes more than just our families and friends but rather includes how we interact with those we do not know, the strangers in our lives. Jesus challenges us in our scriptures this morning to act like the Samaritan without care for self, without care for recognition, without fear. He ends his story with a directive,“ ‘Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed mercy on him.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise’”. 4 Let us go about life seeking to live merciful, compassionate, empathetic lives, by seeing the needs of those around us no matter their station in life and let us work

1 Augustine, 4th century.

2 Webster’s New World Dictionary, 383. 3 Holman Bible Dictionary, 897. 4 Luke 10:36-37, RSV.

3 Holman Bible Dictionary, 897. 4 Luke 10:36-37, RSV. 4 Luke 10:36-37, RSV.