Love Is Caused First

From “Sermon on John 15:12” (ca. 1384)

Because the purpose of this commandment is love, and Christians have taken both Christ and his apostles as exemplars for this love, the gospel teaches how the rule of love should be obeyed… Because Christ wanted to lead the apostles to the satisfaction and consolation of the faith, he places great emphasis on love of neighbor, which involves the love of God, and that love by which Christ loved us is the perfect exemplar, from which we see that the highest love is giving one’s soul for one’s friends. So the evangelist writes, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you; greater love no one has,” John 15:12-13.

And there are three degrees of love: the first is that by which the Father loves the humanity of the Son. Since this love is eternal, it is fitting that one would have another, closer example from Christ’s humanity, by which love Christ loved the apostles and those who were close to him. The third love is that by which the apostles and apostolic men rightly and justly love their sheep. The greatest love a creature can experience is that with which Christ gave his soul for his friends…  God should be loved above all men, even above self… While man himself causes love naturally, efficiently, and to an extent finally, yet love is caused first and more efficiently by God, who is the final end of every creature.

Contractual servitude is that in which someone serves his lord in fear and not in brotherhood. While this is how thing are in human affairs, it is also how things are with the damned and with people weighed down under the burden of guilt. Ministerial servitude is when someone is subject to his lord with a brotherly respect, freely doing his lord’s will; this is how the apostles conceived of themselves as servants of the Lord. Since Christ revealed his desire as well as his reasoning to his apostles, it is clear that they are above the lowly contraction of servants and are friends.

John Wycliffe (ca. 1330-1384) was an English priest and theologian who advocated for church reform and the translation of the Bible into the vernacular. He inspired the Lollard Movement, which focused on popular preaching, and his teaching about grace and the sacraments anticipated some themes of the sixteenth century Reformation. He is commemorated on October 30 on the calendars of some Anglican churches. The modern language adaptation of his text is from J. P. Hoernbeck, S. E. Lahey, and F. Somerset, eds, Wycliffite Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 2013).

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