Monday, February 23, 2015

For Your Love

The gospel today recounts the difference between the sheep and the goats, between those who are blessed and accursed by the Father, between those who cared for the "least brothers" of Jesus and those who didn't. The obvious thrust of Jesus's message here is to love everyone, without exception, no matter how difficult they are, because that's what Jesus did. Our Lord and Savior loved everyone he encountered, and if we want to claim the title of disciple we must do likewise. Everyone likes the idea of love. In a wonderful example of '90's country music, Chris LeDoux describes the lengths to which he will to go to earn your love:
But fundamentally, the world doesn't understand how Jesus loved, so it's rightfully up to us Christians to clarify exactly how Jesus loved. He is the exemplar of love so we want to love like he loved. We need to clarify how Jesus loved, because the world wants to misunderstand how he loved. The world is decidedly unchristian. It conflates the ideas of love, tolerance, acceptance, and approval regarding whatever sin is currently in vogue and makes them one big nasty mess of good feelings. Then, they tell you that this is how Jesus loved, so you Christians have to love like that. But the world has rejected Jesus. It culminated on Good Friday and continues down to the present day, so the world doesn't get to tell us how Jesus loved.

So I gave this image in my homily this morning*: On one side we have judgment, on the other side we have tolerance/acceptance/approval**, and in the middle is love. We don't judge people, that's not love, nor do we approve of every behavior people present, because that's not love either. When Jesus encountered the adulterous woman (John 8:1-11), it is important to notice what he did, and what he didn't do. First and foremost, he loved her. That's something the Pharisees failed to do in their zeal for the law. Jesus didn't judge her, but what our world fails to notice is that he didn't approve of her behavior either. He didn't say, "Go and find your own path to God" or, "Go, God loves when you do what seems right to yourself." He said, "Go and sin no more."

So on one side we have judging, on the other side we have approving, and in the middle is love. Judging and approving are falling off opposite sides of the narrow path of love. Judging gives into that part of me that wants to set myself above others, and wants to set myself in the position of God and "judge souls" when it isn't my place to. On the other hand, blanket approving comes from that insecure part of myself, which is desperate to be accepted and too afraid of conflict to see things with God's vision of the world, or at least as much vision as he's granted to us. Love, however, takes honesty and courage: honesty to admit that I am in no position to judge, being an unworthy sinner myself, and courage to risk the conflict that may come from expressing disapproval. Love seeks the best for the other. Love is good for the other. Judging or approving seeks to feed weaknesses in my own character.

*Well, not the whole image. It's been expanded here thanks to the benefits of more caffeine and it not being 7 am.
**Tol-cept-al? Sounds like a bad drug.

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