Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Love and Blisters

1 John 4:20-21

The love of God has dirt under its fingernails.  Contrary to popular opinion, love, properly understood, is not an ephemeral emotion floating in the atmosphere just above treeline.  Christian love builds callouses on its fingers and feet.  Love does things.  It motivates us, teaches us what is good and what is destructive for the the human life.  It is - or it becomes - the love of God among us.

John is thoroughly earthy in his commands to love.  Though he talks about love a lot he is far from what we would call a romantic.  Christian love is intensely practical, intentional, and often difficult.  If we say we love God and hate a neighbor we are lying about loving God.  It doesn't matter how often we say we love God, how sincerely we mean it when we say it, or how many people believe us when we say it, if we hate a single human soul we are lying about our love for God.  It is a high bar, but the love of God is utterly incompatible with hatred for people.  In fact, the more we grow in the love of God the clearer love and hate become to us: we love people and hate the junk that destroys their souls.  We learn to hate sin just as God does.  In fact, God loves every soul so much, he deeply hates the sin that separates them from him and destroys their lives.

Every human deserves to know the love of God and Christians need to do the loving.  This world with all its promises of liberty and tolerance will never reproduce the power of the love of God, so it needs to be the people of God who show it.  People need to be loved.

These people we live with, get to know, build relationships with, all need to be loved.  The people we create families and communities with, the people who become our life-long friends need to be loved.  Even those who take more from us that they give need God's love.  The people we find difficult, annoying, arrogant, simple-minded, myopic, dangerous, or plain-old cruel need to be loved.

After all, this is how God did it.

Instead of loving us from afar and casting his affections our way hoping we might feel some of it or comprehend some fraction of it, he came here.  He became flesh and the life and love of God was manifest in our midst in a man who got dirt under his fingernails and blisters on his feet.  He walked the dusty roads of Galilee, feasted with friends and laughed in the company of people who befriended him.  He wept at the death of a friend.  He endured the fickle crowds who followed him as long as he had bread to give them at the end of the sermon.  He endured the years-long persecution of the religious leadership of his people.  His friends ran from his aid, denied, and betrayed him.  In this flesh he felt every ounce of pain in the flogging and the hammering of the nails.  In this flesh, the love of God died to save difficult, rebellious, stiff-necked, dangerous, and plain-old evil people.

We need to love people.  God did.

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