Need Your Help to Answer a Question: What is the “Love of Christ?”

This post was originally written June 7, 2011.  In light of the LCMS debate taken public (intentionally or not) over unionism and syncretism, that well worn phrase “All You Need is Love” has cropped up again:  “Share the Love of Christ,”  “You’re not being very loving Confessionals!”  “They will know we are Christian by our Love.”  I think it is time again to pose the question — this time it is directed squarely at those throwing this phrase around so cavalierly and loosely on the issue of syncretistic worship — What is this “Love of Christ” of which you speak?  Here is the rest of the post occasioned on the hearing of a sermon preached at the wedding of that famous royal couple across the pond:

Driving home from Louisville, Kentucky this past weekend, I was listening to a Sermon Review over at Issues, Etc.  It was the sermon given by Bishop Chartres on the occasion of the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton last month.  As I was driving on I-65 south in Bowling Green Kentucky, a couple of things that struck me in the sermon.  In particular they can be found in the following excerpts:

The spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this: the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed. In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.

As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relations alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This is to load our partner with too great a burden. We are all incomplete: we all need the love which is secure, rather than oppressive. We need mutual forgiveness in order to thrive.

As we move towards our partner in love, following the example of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is quickened within us and can increasingly fill our lives with light. This leads on to a family life which offers the best conditions in which the next generation can receive and exchange those gifts which can overcome fear and division and incubate the coming world of the Spirit, whose fruits are love and joy and peace.

Reading between the lines, one can make out the shadow of the Trinity in this sermon — God so loving this world that He sent His only Son into it…  to be our example….  the Holy Spirit being made alive by the power of the love in our relationships with one another, with marriage being the most powerful of these relationships — like two magnets being drawn together creating a magnetic field.  Christ is mentioned in this sermon, but we do not need Him.  Instead, we move into our relationships toward others in love — using as our template the love Christ modeled for us.  This love that we experience in relationship with one another moves and impels the Holy Spirit, flipping on the switch so to speak, animating the Spirit, so that He can fill our lives with light and a life.  This love each of us has alone, but together it is much stronger.  We find our end in the mystery of spiritual of life, drawn into the lives of our partners to become our true selves, and more fully reveal our spiritual beauty.  We therefore, create the conditions in which the next generation can receive and exchange these gifts of love and mutual forgiveness in order to bring into being the world of the Spirit.  Not the kingdom of God.  And forgiveness comes not from the Gospel and Christ, but from our partners in our relationships.  But it is our mutual love for one another as modeled by Christ that drives it all.  At least that is what struck me in the sermon.  I do not know if that is what Bishop Chartres meant, but the absence of Christ and the elevation of the power of our own love really jumped off the page and out of my iPod at me.  Your love is all you need it seems.  Modeled, of course, on the “Love of Christ.”

Beatles spirituality?  John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote a song about it.  It’s pretty easy, according to them, after all, All You Need is Love:

All You Need Is Love lyrics
Songwriters: Mccartney, Paul; Lennon, John;

There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
It’s easy


There’s nothing you can make that can’t be made
No one you can save that can’t be saved
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time
It’s easy

All you need is love                      (Love, love, love)
All you need is love                     (Love, love, love)
All you need is love, love           (Love, love, love)
Love is all you need                    (Love, love, love)

All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need

There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known
Nothing you can see that isn’t shown
There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be
It’s easy

All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need

… copyright Sony/ATV Music Publishing

Simple.  Easy.  Just love.  Modeled on the “Love of Christ.”  And that is where I am stumped.  I keep hearing this phrase, but it is never defined.  Certainly one cannot argue that Christians are to share the “Love of Christ” with the world.  But just what is this “Love of Christ” we are called as Christians to share?  Is it some quality that I have that I need to tap into following the advice of Christ as guru?  Is it a supernatural power, a force that needs two people to be drawn together to trigger the electrical charge to spark the Holy Spirit into life and action?  I have heard this phrase the “Love of Christ” used to quash spirited and passionate debates;  to justify all manner of actions and behaviors whether right or wrong;  to solicit contributions for favorite causes or charities;  to exalt persons;  to help the poor and the need;  to fight injustice.  But rarely is it defined what the “Love of Christ” is that I am supposed to share.  It is vague and amorphous at times, but surely it is greater than the love I have inside of myself and the law of attraction that can “quicken the Spirit.”

So I need help.  Specifically, I need YOUR help.  What is the “Love of Christ” that we are called to share?  What does it DO to you?  to those with whom you share it?  Can I appropriate it in my life?  Is it more than just a template, a model, a rule for living?  What does it mean to share it?  How do you share it?  Does it make you do anything?  What does it look like?  What is it?  What is the “Love of Christ?”  Help me to define it.  Seriously.  Help me define it.  Send me your comments of what you understand the “Love of Christ” to be.  Let us together lay out the picture and define what that love really is.

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