This came up as a topic of conversation during The Table @ Covenant Church on Sunday evening. I've been continuing to reflect on it since then. I offer this for your consideration.
Love - genuine real love - cannot happen from a distance or at arm's length. At least it can't be felt.
Those of us who believe in the spiritual realm and the influence of prayer will affirm that with the help of God's spirit love can be felt over distance, but even then - the prayers offered are offered from a heart that is genuinely engaged in the pain, struggle, or reality of the other. It's not really at arm's length.
If love requires proximity - physical and/or emotional closeness - it will, by default, include risk.
Risk of rejection.
Risk of attack.
Risk of pain.
For some of us . . . Risk of being accepted and reciprocated.
True love (cue the Princess Bride Impressive Clergyman impersonations!) doesn't exist without risk. In calling us to be people of love God is inviting us into lives of risk - lives where safety is not our primary virtue.
But he doesn't do it from arm's length.
God invites us to love because he is love. He comes close to us in love. Entering into our world. Willingly facing the risk of rejection. Risk of attack. Risk of pain. Risk that it might be reciprocated. He experiences all of the pain of the risk and welcoming us to reciprocate. And even as he experiences that he models for us and tells us that it is worth it.
So let's embrace the risk of love. Yes, it will hurt at times. There is no avoiding that. But when this Jesus-like, risky, sacrificial love is accepted and reciprocated, it is worth it. It is this kind of love that God has chosen to change the world.