We are surrounded by images, messages and ideas of love. Valentines Day was just over two weeks ago and in the run up you could barely move for cards, flowers and chocolates, well, at least in my room anyway.
Today I saw the Archbishop of Canterbury. He gave a talk, and then after then there was a Q & A session at which my mate Pat asked him what the key message that youth workers could bring to young people today. He responded with this;
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Clearly they weren't his words, but rather the words of Paul, in the Bible, writing to the Romans. What he said afterwards was that we are called to bring the Love of God to young people, to embody it, and to show that nothing can seperate them from it, nothing they've done, not who they are. NOTHING.
What struck me from that is that we are called to embody love. Not tell them about love, not point them in the right direction to find love, but to embody love, to flesh it out, to put bones and muscles on the idea of what it means to love.
Because talking about love is easy. One of my favourite quotes is from a film called 'The Last Kiss.' It goes;
"Stop talking about love. Every asshole in the world says he loves somebody. It means nothing. It still doesn't mean anything. What you feel only matters to you. It's what you do to the people you say you love, that's what matters. It's the only thing that counts."
Any idiot can say they love someone, its easy. But actually loving someone, thats the difficult bit.
There's a song from a few years ago by Royksopp called 'Only This Moment.' In it there's a bit that goes "Love without pain isn't really romance."
Now I don't know, maybe its deliberate, but that to me seems to wrong way round. Romance without pain isn't really love. Because it hurts to love. Loving means doing the things that causes you pain, that puts others first, that hurts so much that you cry. Love means caring for others, about hurting when they hurt. Romance without this stuff? I reckon thats not really love.
Because love means doing something about it. Years ago at school we did this assembly about love and we all had to fit into this little pattern what love was. Ever since I've not been able to get the phrase 'Love is *clap* *clap* *clap* Making my mum a cup of tea' out of my head.
Loving my mum didn't mean saying it, it meant doing something about it, it meant putting myself out there for her (as a 9 year old, this was as close as I got!).
When Jesus talks about loving our neighbour he tells the story of the good samaritan. Love in this story meant going out of your way to help someone, it meant putting yourself second, it meant a re-alignment of your values, of your plans, of your priorities.
And that love changed things, it changed the life of the guy by the side of the road.
And thats the love I want to embody, thats the love I want to live.
Because love, in its rawest, purest form changes things. Love isn't static, it's not passive; its dynamic, its powerful, its epoch-shattering and world-changing. It's only by love that the world can and will be changed.
There's something wonderfully optimistic about love as well. Love is about saying "Yes and..." not "no but..." it's about looking for the best in the worst situations, the Bible says that love "always hopes, always perseveres." Love says that we will get through this, that it will get better, and that I will be with you in that.
This is how I want to love, I want to love in actions not words, I want to love so much that it hurts, I want to love till it changes situations, I want to love in hope and anticipation that the best is yet to come.
And it's this love, as I was reminded by an old, cassock-wearing, Archbishop with massive eyebrows today, that we, as youth-workers, as followers of Christ, as humans, are called to embody, to share, and to live by.