This post is reprise of and early post from October, 2012 and is part of a fifty-two essay series soon to be available as a book, The Way: What Jesus Really Taught
Last week we were left with the question, what can people of faith do about the perversions that pervade the world today? I answered, we can respond with Divine Love. I understand that many of you are aware of the “kinds” of love that became popular to discuss about twenty years ago: brotherly love, carnal love and Godly or Divine Love. It was an interesting time for people of faith because they found an excuse within these definitions of love to divide up their affections in a way that was very convenient. For the most part this resulted in people putting Divine Love away on a shelf in the back closet while they indulged in carnal love and felt good about expressing brotherly love.
Despite the fact that many pastors and spiritual leaders did a very good job of articulating the nature of Godly Love, there was very little change in the nature of people of faith. Divine Love has mostly been relegated to saints where the aesthetic distance has allowed us to ascribe things to their character that may or may not have existed. Because Divine Love is difficult for the nature of humankind separated from God, the easier route of brotherly love was taken. We see it often when there are disasters, like hurricane Sandy.
But I submit that helping out a person in need out of your excess, giving a beggar a quarter, running to pull a baby from a burning car, or joining a protest march to save the environment or the economy, all noble acts, fall far short of Godly love. Just as the number one billion is several orders of magnitude more than a million, so too is Divine Love far beyond brotherly love, or the kind of common love we subscribe to that is often motivated by self interest.
Jesus, knowing the nature of humankind took great pains to make the distinction between Godly love and any other kind of love: And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also, Matt. 5:40; or, But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that course you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. Luke 6:27-28. If you read Christian blogs and forums these and similar verses get the most comments. Most comments are derisive and some so scathing they can’t be repeated. They can all be summed up as, this is impossible. What kind of God would demand such nonsense?
Well the truth is for humankind, separated from the Spirit of God, it is impossible and it is nonsense. It is what you would expect. However, it is NOT what we should expect from followers of the Way, people of faith who claim to have been reborn of God’s Spirit and who are one with God. Most, if not all, Christians and others of faith would not lay down there lives for their friends including members of the military who are fighting for their own self interest, despite declarations to the contrary. You may recall the controversy several years ago regarding a Christian group within the military and the concern about the separation of church and state. The irony is that no one needed to fear that this group would ever put their beliefs above their duty to country. Their Christian beliefs were informed by their duty to country, not the other way around-though they would claim they are one and the same. Loving their enemies? Out of the question.
I know some of you are thinking, well we live in an imperfect world and we must use imperfect (military) means to keep order. You can probably quote many chapters and verses from the old testament to justify your position; or point to the Revelation of John where Jesus is represented as leading the final battle against evil, or you may point to the reference of the war in heaven among the angels. All of these are references to spiritual battles and the message of Jesus was of a more excellent “way”. And he didn’t just preach about it, he lived it; loving his enemies unto death. Not only him, but those who had been reborn of the Spirit gave their lives in sometimes the most horrible ways. They were tortured until death; they were sawed in half; they were eaten alive by lions; crucified and hanged. These people of faith became one with God in spirit; not subordinating their will to God’s will, rather joining their will to God’s will thereby giving them the power to love their enemies even unto to death. They changed the world. They should be our examples, not the televangelist, not the ivory towered theologian, not the leaders of the over two hundred protestant denominations, not the myriad rabbis and preachers and teachers.
We can only become capable of Divine Love through practicing prayer and meditation that seeks to unite our will with God’s will. It is not easy. But we have a helper in the Holy Spirit if we would only ask, seek and knock at the door of wisdom and understanding. When I say it takes practice, I mean it is something that we should be obsessed with; it should consume our every thought; not as ritual, rather as a natural result of our desire (love of) for oneness with God. The insidious nature of the perversions discussed last week is that they further corrupt our nature and further separate us from God. Our minds are infiltrated by images and thoughts to the extent that they possess the core of our being with darkness and evil so profound that we lose the ability to reason. We eventually are so confused that evil seems good, dark seems to be light, bad becomes good and the vicious cycle of perversion continues with you and I as its instruments. Don’t let this happen. Reject perversion and seek to unify your will with God’s will and you will find that loving your enemy with Divine Love is not only possible, it will become the joy of your existence.
To God Be The Glory