Love is a word stemmed from the Greek “caritas”. The Greeks saw in love a unitive and harmonizing power, and understood it on the foundation of sexual love, political concordance, and friendship. Hesiod and Parmenides were the first ones to suggest that love is the power that moves things, and keeps and leads them together. Empedocles recognized in love the power that keeps all things united, and in discord, the power that separates them. Plato gave us the first treaty on love, in which he focus that love is the desire to acquire and to conquer what one does not have. In the second place, love aims at beauty, which is the desire for good; and in the third place, love is the desire to conquer death, and is, therefore, the way by which the mortal being seeks to save himself from mortality, leaving after him, in place of what grows old and dies, something new, in his likeness, that is, a child. In the fourth place, Plato distinguishes as many forms of love as forms of beauty, beginning with the sensible beauty and ending with the beauty of wisdom. Aristotle engages in the positive consideration of love. To him, love and hatred as all other affections of the soul belong not only to the soul as it is, but to men as he is formed of soul and body, and is therefore weakened with the weakness of the union of soul and body. He also says that love that is connected to pleasure can begin and end easily. Aristotle declared that God, as first motor, moves the other things as “the object of love,” that is, as the term of desire that things have of reaching perfection. These philosophers all lived before Christ. Let us mention some who lived after Christ. Descartes, French philosopher of the 6th Century, said that love is an affection, and depends on the body, differently from judgment, which also induces the soul to, of its own accord, adhere to things it judges good. Love is distinct from desire, which is directed to the future. Descartes rejects the medieval distinction between concupiscent love and benevolent love, in which concupiscent love seeks its own good and benevolent love seeks the good of its neighbor. To him, this distinction relates to the effects, not to the essence of love. Leibiniz, who came soon after him, expressed clearly that, when one sincerely loves someone, one does not seek his own good; neither seeks pleasure outside the love of the beloved, but seeks his own pleasure in the satisfaction and happiness of this person. According to Leibiniz, love removes the contrast between two truths.

There were many other thinkers and philosophers, both ancient and modern who occupied themselves with, and wrote about love. All these intellectuals formed a rich fountainhead for humanity. The psychic intellectuals found in this vast fountainhead a fountain of knowledge about the beauty of love, the power of love, the virtue of love, and the multifaceted grace of love.

Let us talk now of another fountainhead whose source was not in the heart, or in the mind of man, but in the heart of God, the Father, and was manifested to us by Jesus Christ, his Son, in the person of the Holy Spirit. This love, descending from the heart of God by the Holy Spirit, makes man perfect; and Paul, who received this love when he believed in Jesus, declared: “Put on therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, humility, and perseverance; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, if any man has a complaint against any; even as Christ forgave you, so you also do. Above all these things, walk in love, which is the bond of perfection” (Col. 3:12-14). Fantastic. The love of God, communicated to men by the Holy Spirit, makes man humble, meek, longsuffering, and gives him a heart of compassion, that is, whatever the offense or the insult, the one who is offended forgives with a heart of compassion, with humbleness and meekness. It is love, which makes it possible for us to bear the heaviest burdens, that is, the heaviest and most painful cross, the element that makes us like Christ. Jesus loved men so much that he gave his life, nailed to a cross. He said: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). And he further said: “Therefore the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down by myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. I received this commandment from my Father” (John 10:17-18). Jesus did not lay his life because the Father told him to do it, but because he loved the lost, the thieves, the unfaithful, the homicide and adulterers, the liars, the prostitutes, all of them. He said: “For the Son of Man came to save that which was lost” (Matt. 18:11). This kind of love, the philosophers and poets have not fathomed, because it has never occurred to men. The love taught by philosophers is very attractive, and it is filled with maxims of rare beauty, but it does not exclude the law. When an enemy hurts the law of men he is imprisoned or killed, but love as revealed in Jesus Christ is so powerful that it cancels out the law of god. Paul declared by the Holy Spirit:“Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not give false testimony,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and whatever other commandments there are, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love doesn’t harm a neighbor. Love therefore is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:8-10). This is wonderful! Love shed in the heart of the Christian from heaven is more powerful than the law, and deprives the law of its power and force. Love cancels law. But it cannot be the love that is birthed in the heart and mind of man, or intellectuals, for, as we have already said, this love is under the law and does not abolish it. Jesus, speaking of the celestial love, said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? If you only greet your friends, what more do you do than others? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:43-48). This is the fountainhead of Jesus Christ, which makes Christians perfect, as God is perfect, and therefore cancels law. And if it makes man perfect, this man is also like Christ in perfection.“…until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). And there is more: This love from heaven, infused in man by the Holy Spirit, brings to man the eternal life, and for this reason John declares: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. He who doesn’t love his brother remains in death” (1 John 3:14).

by Pastor Olavo Silveira Pereira

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