It has always been one of the core beliefs of my faith that resistance to the world’s ways is at the heart of the Judeo-Christian ethic. It may also be at the heart of other faiths, but this is the one I know best and am steeped in. Between now and Epiphany Sunday on January 7 I will take one of the traditional themes of the season and relate it to our present day resistance to some difficult and troubling things happening around us. I don't believe we are to withdraw from the world, but rather engage with the world (in, not of the world) with the Word in mind.
2nd Sunday of Advent,
December 10, 2017:
Love as Resistance
Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love,
and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.
― Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
I found all kinds of ways of putting “love” into this post as a form of resistance. Where do we get the idea that love is a spiritual discipline?
• Love the Lord with all that you are
• Love your neighbor as yourself.
• Love is how we turn what we say into what we do.
• To live in love is to live in God.
• Love is the embodiment of our beliefs. The only place where the beliefs can be seen.
• We learn love from God!
Love as a discipline of spiritual resistance is important because it crosses barriers and boundaries and allows for no exceptions. Love is acceptance and it’s what I meant when talking last week about our interconnectedness.
On top of all that we don’t often think of the spiritual discipline of “love” as countercultural, resistance to the ways the world deals with love and life. Stop and think about it and we realize that it is the natural extension of the basic so-called Golden Rule:
Do unto others as you would have them do to (or for) you!
Meditate on that; place it as the Golden Rule, i.e. the best rule for living. (Go ahead. Take some time to do that if you want before you read on. I have already done so.)
What did you get? What comes to mind?
First it was the awareness of how seldom I think of that let alone try to actually live it. From there it moved to asking myself another question. “What would such love look like?” Without missing much of a beat it came to a halt at Jesus’ words:
I say to you, Love your enemies, bless those cursing you, do good to those hating you, and pray for those accusing you falsely, and persecuting you… (Matthew 5:44, Young’s Literal Translation.)Now Jesus is REALLY meddling with the ways of the world. Jesus is actually suggesting that we do the exact opposite of the ways of the world. Love my enemies? You’ve got to be kidding! That would be unheard of, even suicidal.
That isn’t just countercultural, it is downright revolutionary. If we all started practicing that this would be a far different world.
And that is exactly the point! What else would be the purpose of such spiritual resistance but to make the world a far better place? What else would be the result of living a spiritually resistant lifestyle than the overturning of the logical way of living and relating to others?
Now, with all that in mind, let me ask you another question to continue to build this discipline of love.
Do you remember being loved in such a way that it changed your life?Two things come to mind. The first, that set the foundation for me was a remarkable quote from theologian Paul Tillich:
“You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted!” If that happens to us, we experience grace.That quote has come to me a number of times over the past 45 years- always at a time and place of needing to be loved- and what is love except an awareness of being accepted as I am. Me. Just as I am!
The second thing that came to mind happened many years ago but only sunk in recently. A few years ago I was working on following my Dad’s Army unit through the last year of World War II. I called one of my Dad’s cousins to ask some questions. (I should note that my Dad died in 1964 when I was 16, 2 1/2 years after my mother had died. What I knew of both of them was therefore limited.) In the midst of our conversation she mentioned how her mother and others around our small rural town had worried about my brother and myself losing our parents at such young ages. It was an opening of light as I realized that in those years- and many since- I was loved and cared for simply because I needed it. They were worried and wanted to support us.
I have been loved - and it was a great feeling.
How could I not want to share that? How could I not be willing to live that love through my own life? I have spent my adult life in service to others in ministry, in mission, in addiction counseling, in trying to be a good husband, father, and friend. I am who I am because over these 69 years I have been loved unconditionally by many people.
The revelation that “love” has been at work in my life in countless and often unknown ways was one more reason to live in love.
To repeat, that is all quite revolutionary. Not that family or friends loved me, but the feeling of being loved is so powerful even when you don’t know it’s happening, it can change your world.
However to name someone as “enemy” and therefore not worthy of my love is dangerous. My heroes like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Have pointed that out. They attempted to live in ways that loved instead of hated. Not long after I typed these words, my friends at Mindful Christianity Today on Facebook posted a meme. Here it is:
We are in a time of great divisiveness and even angry hatred. It may be couched in either nice language or spoken with all its vitriol spewing forth. Such anger and hatred leads to violence. Such violence will always be deadly- emotionally, spiritually, or physically. As part of the counter-culture of spirituality we must remember what it means to be loved and how it works miracles in each of us. Then, in radical acceptance and revolutionary hope, we live that love, no matter what.
It may be resisted or mocked; it may be seen as weakness or illogical. It will empower us to be who we are called to be.
And I saw the river over which every soul must pass to reach the kingdom of God and the name of that river was suffering - and I saw the boat which carries souls across the river and the name of that boat was love.
— St. John of the Cross