An emotion-driven concept of love draws back from thinking of love as a commandment. But the withdrawal is based on two false assumptions: that we love (or not) on the basis of how we feel, and/or that love is a transaction instead if a relationship. These false assumptions lead us to view loving God and others more as a rule to be obeyed than the purpose of life itself.
The desert Christians teach us a better way–the way of realizing that the commandment to love comes to us from God, who is Holy Love. Suddenly, our ego is not the gatekeeper of love, and our lives are the channels through whom God’s love reaches the world.
Jesus’ words, “Love one another as I have loved” (John 15:12) make the command one of opportunity, not obligation–one of privilege, not pressure. Our will to love is itself fueled by love–we love because he first loved us (1John 4:19).
When this experience saturates us, we cannot imagine not loving, and we lose interest in trying to decide when, where, how, to what extent, and whom to love. In fact, we realize that the most soul-wearying thing we can ever do is to be the self-appointed managers of God’s love.
So, we see the desert Christians loving–loving regardless, loving anyway, loving nevertheless. Theirs was not a knee-jerk, unconsidered love, but rather it was a Spirit-anointed love made possible by grace. It was a love marked by universality and generosity.
Ours can be too.