The spiritual journey to a new life which is both ours but not ours, at least in the way our life has been, is what Jesus gives. We can become more than we are in the mystery of a venture into the eternal love of God. Jesus spoke about this process as entering God’s Kingdom, coming to live in a whole other realm while still in this world.
All the transformation this entails happens in God’s divine love, which is why Jesus names love as both the greatest command and his new command (John 13:34). We receive and and learn to share this love which is not of ourselves, but which comes into us by God’s own gracious work.
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Romans 10:17
In this statement, Paul is discussing the beginning of this spiritual journey for us. The message of Christ, which is about him and also from him, is what we must hear. Jesus is the way and teaches us the way. However, we might overlook the necessary role of love in the very inception of this journey, but it is present nonetheless.
Our first act of love is to pay attention. The word of Christ is a message about love, which comes to us out of love, and it elicits our initial response which is participation in the divine love through our hearing. We listen with intention and desire, which makes this an act of love. Love moves us to pay attention. Sometimes we hear but don’t listen, but in this instance we are talking about the choice and willingness to listen, and this is love.
Because our first step into the love of God is when that love draws from us enough love to pay attention, we ought to realize that this is the first way we too ought to love others as well. To love our neighbor begins with listening to them, just as our love of God begins in listening to God. We might think that to love their neighbors we must immediately tell them what we believe they need to know. We may be right about what they need to hear, but this is not where love begins.
I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Psalm 116:1
God loves us in the way we need to love one another. Often our cry is misguided, or our request foolish. Perhaps the mercy we cry out for is not the mercy we need, but God pays attention anyway. God hears us as an act of love.
God is always taking the initiative. God listens to us before we listen to him. God loves us before we love in return. God speaks to us because he has heard our cries, even if those were not specifically directed to him. If in the transforming love of God we become like him, then we too listen as an act of love before we speak.
For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. John 12:49
We see this same pattern in the life of Jesus. He paid attention his Father’s voice because of his love. He listened before he spoke, and we have this as the way given to us. We won’t even know what love is unless we have first listened carefully to the love we are being given and shown, and recognize how we were lovingly heard as part of the love we were taught.