Last week I wrote about our call to love even our enemies and that in doing so we will see God. But what does that love look like? What does it mean to love in these challenging times? I am afraid that my love may be too small.
I am reading an excellent book by the Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry titled, “Love is the Way: Holding On to Hope in Troubling Times.” Bishop Curry writes, “Love is a firm commitment to act for the well-being of someone other than yourself.” Okay, I can generally do that. He writes later, “Love is something fierce.” Yes, that’s good. “Love is someone protesting anything that hurts or harms the children of God.” Okay, now it is getting close to home and I am beginning to squirm. “[Love] often calls us to step outside of what we thought our boundaries were, or what others expect of us. It calls for us to sacrifice, not because doing so feels good, but because it’s the right thing to do.” Now, I’m definitely squirming. Truly acting in love toward others may actually make me uncomfortable.
So who is our best teacher about love and what it looks like in life? Jesus, of course. But what do we learn from Jesus’ love? Here is a long, but excellent, quote from Debi Thomas written on the website Journey with Jesus.
What would it cost us to take Jesus’s version of love seriously? To practice and cultivate a depth of compassion that’s gut-punching? To train ourselves into a hunger for justice so fierce and so urgent that we rearrange our lives in order to pursue it? To pray for the kind of empathy that causes our hearts to break? Do we even want to?
Most of the time — I’ll be honest — I don’t. I want to be safe. I want to keep my circle small and manageable. And I want to choose the people I love based on my own affinities and preferences — not on Jesus’s all-inclusive commandments. Charitable actions are easy. But cultivating my heart? Preparing and pruning it to love? Becoming vulnerable in authentic ways to the world’s pain? Those things are hard. Hard and costly.
And yet this is the call. Which means that we have a God who first and foremost wants our love — not our fear, penitence, or piety. And we have a God who wants every one of God’s children to also feel loved. By us. Not shamed. Not punished. Not chastised. Not judged. But loved.
I find that so powerful. Am I willing to train myself into a fierce hunger for justice? Am I willing to pray for empathy that will break my heart? Where will that lead me, what will happen, will I be okay? Am I willing to let my heart be pruned for love? Oh my, those are hard questions. I need to think about and pray about those questions. How about you?