If love is the soul of Christian existence, it must be at the heart of every other Christian virtue. Thus, for example, justice without love is legalism; faith without love is ideology; hope without love is self-centeredness; forgiveness without love is self-abasement; fortitude without love is recklessness; generosity without love is extravagance; care without love is mere duty; fidelity without love is servitude. Every virtue is an expression of love. No virtue is really a virtue unless it is permeated, or informed, by love.-Richard Rohr
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians about the importance of treating each other well, with out prejudice and with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, he added an important truth: “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:14 NIV)
His advice about wrapping our motivations in love is what keeps us from turning his earlier instructions into another to-do list for controlling types. A song from “The Slipper and The Rose” called “Protocoligorically Correct” demonstrates a situation many of us are familiar with, even outside a fairy tale kingdom setting.
“Yes, we must be protocoligorically correct
Good form must never suffer from neglect
The rules and regulations we respect
Must be treated circumspect
Else the kingdom will be wrecked
We’ve a system to protect
Checked and double checked
And protocoligorically correct.”
It’s an amusing song even if its satire stings a bit. Many virtues seem, well, virtuous, until we realize that without love they become mere rules and regulations and the means to maintain control. When virtues morph into protocols, the soul of Christian existence is relegated to the back of the broom closet. Sometimes it’s easier to preoccupy ourselves with protecting a system than actually caring for each other and raising each other up. Love is an investment in another person’s well-being and spiritual growth. Love requires sensitivity to the tempering wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit and the kind of emotional courage Jesus demonstrated.
Love is not an option for the Christian. It’s not something to be sentimentalized and brought out for special occasions. Love is the identifying feature of the Kingdom of heaven.
Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will everyone know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13: 34, 35