A failure of love
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit...” “...Your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.” (C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, 1941)
“For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, and nothing concealed that will not be brought to light.” (Mark 4: 22)
We watch the recent events with a sense almost of despair. How can we do these things to one another? How can a man kneel upon the neck of George Floyd until he dies? How can people respond to that act by murdering innocent people? How can we destroy with glee, degrade lives and homes and succumb to hopeless rage? How can we tear down and rip apart the fabric of all that makes us human?
This is not who we were made to be. But this is who we have become — or are becoming. We face the frightening essence of the tyranny of emotions that, once hidden, have now been revealed. This chaos is the end I had foretold just a few months ago.
The central element that pervades the conduct of all those I cited above is a failure of love. Though the officer performs his role of keeping the law, the failure of his love drives the murderous action taking George Floyd’s life. The peaceful protests bring to light the very real oppressive nature of some policemen. However, those protests too quickly morph into the destruction, assault and murder that have torn apart so many cities. The failure of love also drives those actors to give into the beastly tyranny of the mob. None of the violence has resolved or repaired any division. It has simply driven us further apart, alienating us one from another.
Man stands at the crossroads of creation. We can rise to the heights of heaven’s love or we can descend to the horror of hell’s hate. The choice is ours. What have we chosen in these recent times? The hearts of men are revealed in the chaos of hate, revenge and destruction. The sight is not enlightening. It is disturbing, even horrifying. Yet, this is the whirlwind we have sown. In our hubris we reject God’s law and His love. We have tasted in full of satan’s lie, “You will be like God.” The taste is bitter in our mouths and our teeth grind at its sour bite.
We do not even know how to repair this alienation. We ask, “What can save us?” The proper question is, “Who will save us?” The answer to both questions is, “Nothing but Jesus.” But our culture will not recognize His love or the responsibility which that Love requires of us.
Where is love in the last few weeks? Remember the love which poured out into the Charleston community after the heroic statement of the sons and daughters of the nine Saints of Mother Emanuel? Their declaration was probably the most heart-rending and daunting task any of them would ever face: to confront the murderer of their loved ones and say, “Jesus loves you and I love you. I forgive you.” Those words transformed this city. They still resonate today.
How long can that love remain? We cannot rest upon the strength of that one bold statement of faith. That love will also fade and become a failure without continued re-creation brought about by a deepening and confirming commitment to one another. Jesus says, “To this very day my Father is at His work, and I too am working.” (John 5: 17) The real essence of the work of the Father and of Jesus is, simply, Love. “God so loved the world ...” “Love one another as I have loved you.”
How do we build love into this hate-drenched world? How do we find the strength to even begin? We must call upon the name of the Lord. We must return in prayer and penitence to listen for His voice. We must listen for His forgiveness from all whom we have wounded.
We begin by seeing every other person as Holy, precious in God’s sight. As C.S. Lewis said, “... it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” He concluded, “Your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.”
When we see every person with whom we interact as Holy, our entire perspective changes. Every act, every word or gesture becomes weighted with eternity. Our lives and theirs take on new depth of meaning and worth ... and our world is transformed. We begin to see others through the eyes of God, to hear His voice in theirs. The language of Christ is the language of love. When we listen to Him, we love others as Jesus loved us: with aching commitment, overwhelming forgiveness and overflowing heart.
There is a greater challenge for us Christians. We are to preach forgiveness and love in Jesus’ name. As Paul says in Romans, “... for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then can they call on the One in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach?” (Romans 10:14, 15)
Jesus has called each one of us to be the herald of His love. This world aches to hear such news; to be uplifted in grace and love. We are tired unto death of the bitter tears of division, of the failure of love. We seek some measure of peace, some oasis of rest in the relentless desert of our wasting lives. We cast a searching glance all around, hoping to find solace. I tell you, “Look not around you. Look up! The Lord has come down for you. He bends down to lift you up in His strong arms.”
We are called to witness to a good news which surpasses the failures of our human love and which will never leave us in despair. “And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Pray, brothers and sisters, for the strength of the Father to stand fast in His Word; for the fire of the Holy Spirit to pour into your hearts His Witness; and, for the love of Jesus Christ to burn brightly within, that you might reach a dying world in desperate need.
Joseph Stringer writes and speaks on Christian issues in culture in the hope that we may realize transformation in our lives. Watch for his upcoming book, “God Came Down.” He prays that all who hear him or read his works might see through them to the One who has chosen us for life. Check out his blog at www.chosen4life.org.