“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8
Growing up in the country, I never had any experience with fire hydrants. From what I could tell on TV and movies, neighborhood kids would gather around fire hydrants on hot summer days. There would just be a trickle of water that would flow from the top of the apparatus. At some point in the program, a car would hit the fire hydrant, water would spray into the air and kids would come to play in the cool mist now so generously provided. I have since seen a fire hydrant, and to learn that this is not the norm is severely upsetting. (But that’s beside the point.)
I think this is a good analogy for what God did with love. In a sense, God broke love. More accurately, God broke what we thought of as love. Before Christ, we thought of love the way we love…conditional love. We may say, “I love my [insert object of affection here] unconditionally.” Whether it’s your spouse, significant other, children or pet, we say we love without conditions but I think there’s something all of those subjects could do to affect that love. Just ask the partner of an unfaithful spouse, the parent of a wayward child or the owner of a pet who barks…a lot!
Here’s the thing, we can do some things with this love. Think of the trickle coming out of the hydrant. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing! Then, Christ showed up and everything changed.
Jesus was the “Word of God made flesh” (John 1:14). And if God is love (1John 4:8) then Jesus was love with flesh on. Not the conditional kind of love that we knew either! Jesus was pure love on this earth for all to see. It was like God broke the hydrant and just let the water flow. Jesus did things with this kind of love that no one had ever seen before. When he touched people who were sick, they were made well. When he sat with hungry people, they were fed. All because of the kind of love he shared. Not the conditional love we were used to—the kind of love where you have to strain to get a drop. Jesus shared the free-flowing, unconditional love of God.
In Greek, this kind of love is called agape (pronounced ah-gap-aye). It comes up several times in the New Testament, yet none quite as poignant as John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” This was a radical notion in the time of Christ. God’s love was always thought to have conditions—sacrifice, ritual, rite, rule, practice. God was voiding this belief and offering himself freely to every individual through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Now that Christ has offered himself to us, now that the hydrant has burst and water flows through the air pouring out on the happy kids, we have a choice. Do we accept him and turn away, or do we receive him and live? I don’t know about you, but playing in all that water sure does look like a lot of fun!