What I want on my epitaph
The Bible tells us that “God is Love” 1 John 4:8. But how can we even begin to understand what that means? There are many passages in the Bible that give us God’s definition of love. The most well-known verse, probably THE most well-known Bible verse is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you’ve ever seen or been to a football game, a sports arena, perhaps you saw someone holding up a sign with this verse.
It might be easy to talk about love. I remember people of God dismissing the whole notion that “All you need is love” – that was something the hippies talked about during the free love era of the 60s. After all, you need more than love …“You can’t live on love alone.”
Or at least that was my take away from the whole teaching of Christian love. So systematic theology gave insight about what more was needed than love. And it made sense to me so that I strove to build my life on that teaching. It worked for a good long while. But when I die, I don’t want systematic theology as the epitaph on my tombstone. Systematic theology may have been a helpful tool to build and go about following Jesus’ teachings. But there’s too much me in it. Frankly, there’s too much human thought in systematic theology.
So, what would I want as the epitaph on my tombstone? Perhaps the acknowledgment that other people, maybe secular people, maybe some people from other religious faiths or traditions even have stated. Certainly it is the thought behind Jesus’ teaching. Sometimes I dismissed its truth because I rationalized that they weren’t “like me.” Could it have been OK for me to dismiss the admonition to love because I didn’t approve of that philosophy as defined by someone who did not have the same belief or conviction as I?
Is it as easy as a song? “All you need is love?” In my younger days, I would have challenged that theology. As I mature, I want to embody that philosophy, that teaching straight from Jesus.
Love one another (John 13:34b) Love one another (John 13:35) Love one another (John 15:12) Love one another (John 15:17) Love one another (Romans 13:8) Make your love increase (I Thessalonians 3:12) Love each other (1 Thessalonians 4:9) Love one another deeply (1 Peter 3:8) Love each other deeply (1 Peter 4:8) Love one another (1 John 3:11) Love one another (1 John 3:23) Love one another (1 John 4:7) Love one another (1 John 4:11) Love one another (1 John 4:12) Love one another (2 John 5)
Those words are not only how I want to live, but want them on my tombstone when I die. All you need is love — indeed!
Rev. John Moxley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.