“Everybody, everybody wants to love. Everybody, everybody wants to be loved,”–the chorus of this Sunday’s introit. So many songs and stories have been written about love lost, love found, enduring love. As a religious educator I am thrilled when anyone, especially a child, sees the connection between our faith movement and all-encompassing love. It is in our Universalist DNA, a knowing that all are worthy of love–the theology of love as a force or grace that saves. We have even been nicknamed the “love people” since showing up en masse in our bright yellow Standing on the Side of Love T-shirts for Justice GA in Phoenix.
So why can it be so difficult to love? Maybe it is partly because of our romanticized notion of what love is and the fact that there are so many ways to define it – romantic, altruistic, parental, unconditional- that we aren’t sure which one fits. What about loving the ‘unlovable’? Does it make it harder to love when we see something in others that we don’t like about ourselves, a shadow side that we haven’t accepted or truly uncovered. How can we love a murderer or the person who consistently treats us badly or the person we don’t even know or our imperfect selves? Maybe that question could be answered by asking what they need? Are they outcast, fearful, angry, lonely, seeking — what motivates the actions that we do not like? Asking out of compassion opens the heart and makes room for a connection, and for me, love is connection. It is feeling like I am part of the world and reflecting that feeling back to others.
Love is the core of my theology. I believe that abiding love grounded in experienced truths and in relationship with others is what provides hope. It’s what drew me to Unitarian Universalism, the theology of a saving love, one that doesn’t exclude based on belief, but offers redemption for all. Redemption isn’t about being absolved from sin, it is about restoring my humanity over and over again by acting in love. I believe everyone has inherent worth that can be redeemed. It is in my struggle to love all, even those people who challenge me to expand my heart even more, that I learn more about myself and become more whole. Leaning into the love I want to embody is my salvation. “Everybody, everybody wants to love. Everybody, everybody wants to be loved.”