Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem "Ulysses" is a dramatic monologue depicting "an indomitable quester animated by heroic humanism and a sustained drive for knowledge" (according to the "Oxford Anthology of English Literature") . Ulysses has left his home in search of adventure, and to learn more about the world, and has journeyed far and long, sailing over most of the known world of that mythological time. And now Ulysses is older, and wiser, and a bit world-weary, and Tennyson creates this sense of what he must have been thinking. This Ulysses isn't yet tired of these adventures, although acknowledging he's not quite what he used to be. And the last few lines of the poem are powerful, and stirring, and make you think:
"Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
"Though much is taken much abides" came to mind for me in considering this "abiding" sense of love in 1 John 4:7-21. Ulysses is affirming that although time and aging have "taken" much from him, there is still much that "abides"--and that which abides is very much the foundation for continuing his life of adventure, and learning, and discovery. That which "abides" is what has made--and will continue to make--all of this possible.
"God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them" it says in 1 John 4:16b. Abiding means that it continues, and is foundational, and sustains us, and we can keep on counting on it as we keep on living it. And one of the benefits of that "abiding love" and that "abiding IN love" is explained in verse 18: "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear" .
And with that perfect love, in which we abide, and in which we have no fear, we can with confidence love God and love neighbor, which Jesus has reminded us are the two greatest commandments. As 1 John 4:19-21 puts it: "We love because he first loved us. Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also".
There is no limit to what God can do with us as we abide in this love!
PSALTER Psalm 22:25-31
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
May your hearts live for ever!
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before him.
28 For dominion belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations.
29 To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
and I shall live for him.
30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord,
31 and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
saying that he has done it.
NEW TESTAMENT 1 John 4:7-21
7Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19We love because he first loved us. 20Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.