The Epistle Reading for the Fifth Sunday of Easter (1 John 4: 7-21) begins with these telling words (in Greek): “Agapetoi agapomen”– which translates as “those who are loved, let us love”. Then John continues to stress that love is an attribute of God. We have a famous Swahili hymn, “Mungu ni Pendo” which is translated as “God is love”, precisely John’s declaration in verse 8. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Where there is love there is life” and even the WW I military commander, Ferdinand Foch declared that, “The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire”. What is the fire in the human soul? It is love – not rage, hatred, strife, fear or conflict.
The second very important observation in the Epistle is John’s statement that “No one has ever seen God”. Yet he also states that “everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” – even though we have never seen God. We are loved first, then we too can love. It is the love of God, which is God with which we can love one another.
So, John state that “God is love, (Mungu ni Pendo) and those who abide in love abide in God and God abides in them”. Consequently, or “because as God is, so we are in this world” (not in heaven).
The word “abide” is mentioned six times in the Epistle Reading and eight times in the Gospel Reading (John 15: 1-8). What does the word really mean? John wrote in Greek, and the Greek word he used is “meno” which means “to stay, to remain, not to depart, to be kept or held continually, to remain as one not to become another or different” – I like this last definition. In Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, the word he used would be the equivalent of the Hebrew “yashav”, which means “sit, remain, dwell”.
In any case, what we see in these readings is an emphasis on a relationship – relationship with God, relationship with Jesus and relationship with one another and all this being interconnected. When this happens God, Jesus, and humanity become oneness. This may not be quite familiar in Christian theology, but the concept of the Oneness of all Creation, the Oneness of the Universe, the Oneness of Life is not a novelty in many spiritual traditions. It should not be a novelty in Christianity either because that is what the Epistle and Gospel Readings for this Sunday are saying.
It is in this relationship that fruits are borne, and these are the fruits of love, peace, harmony, compassion and forgiveness. But, why are we haunted by the puzzle of 7 billion people wanting the same thing – love, peace, happiness, abundance, opportunity, safety and security – and be unable to get it?
That is for next discussion.