Monday, August 13, 2012
This Thing Called Love
So now we come to the second component of the Kingdom
AKA as love
Love is a feeling you feel when you feel like you’re going to get a feeling you never felt before. (that’s not love, its hormones).
Love is a perpetual state of anesthesia (no way, if anything love makes us super sensitive)
Love is never having to say you’re sorry (that’s just stupidity, for “I’m sorry” are two of the most powerful words for keeping love alive).
What is love, really? The ancient Greeks, who were not fools, felt they could not define love with just one word. They had a number. I’d like to look at three.
One word is EROS This word stands for the romantic aspect of love. This is the surge of emotion, the feeling you feel….” Eros is important, and its great. What fun would a marriage be without a little eros? But there is a problem with eros. It comes and goes. Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not!
A second word is PHILEO. This might best be translated friendship. It comes when people have common goals, dreams, interests and beliefs. This too is important. .
Finally there is what is called AGAPE. This is a unique word that is used, in the Christian Bible, to talk about God’s love. It is love, which as it is illustrated, with unearned. It is love simply given, as a gift. With agape love one is not loved because one is beautiful, wise, rich, or powerful. One is just loved. It is not based on earthly value, it creates value.
We see the nature of this love in Jesus who constantly, consistently, places high value on people who are normally rejected. Tax Collector, Prostitute, Thief, lowest of the low…. Jesus, with the eyes of agape love, sees through surface problems of illness, weakness and failure to the jewel at the core of the person. He sees the person God created that person to be…
In short, with agape love, instead of looking at the world through the lenses of hatred, suspicion, judgment and fear, we face the world with an open heart. And you respond to the world accordingly
Think about that passage from Corinthians we heard earlier…. Those words aren’t about how one feels, they are about how one sees, and about how one treats, others.
The great parable of agape love is the story of the prodigal son….Luke 15:1-32
Here, the prodigal, is someone who has failed miserably, even morally.
This is the mother who is on drugs
The man who has stolen from his employer
This is the person who has made a mess out of life and is jobless and homeless
This is the person on the street.
In the story the parent… God…. Receives and accepts this person…
And in the context of this reception… and remember it is not a blind reception.
The parent knows exactly what this child is like…
The parent knows every sordid detail… parents usually do you know. I like how Richard Rohr puts it…
"The gaze of God receives us exactly as we are, without judgment or distortion, subtraction or addition. Such perfect receiving is what transforms us. Being totally received as we truly are is what we wait and long for all our lives. All we can do is receive and return the loving gaze of God every day, and afterwards we will be internally free and deeply happy at the same time."
And there we have the point. Agape love, being seen and received, as we truly are, is transforming..
The son in the story goes from being a homeless reject to being a beloved son… and I would like to think, lives out his “sonship” from that point on…
In other words… agape love helps create… metanoia, or transformation.
It is my hope that having made mistakes, having been broken, that having been there, in the pit, the darkness, and redeemed, the prodigal would be able to have empathy, forgive, love with agape love. I have no illusions that the son never made another mistake. The shadow of failure, the shadow of a wasted life doesn’t disappear after metanoia…
Thomas Merton writes, in his autobiography, The Seven Story Mountain.. “There was this shadow, this double, who had followed me in the cloister (this is after he became a monk)… he is still on my track. He rides my shoulders, sometimes, like the old man of the sea… I cannot lose him…. He is supposed to be dead.”
The shadow doesn’t disappear. But we don’t need to be defeated by this. This shadow keeps us honest, and keeps us coming back to the one, God, who loves us with agape love. This shadow teaches us to love the source of life… and prompts us to love our neighbor.
So agape love is something we receive
It is something which transforms us
And it is something we are called to give
What is it that you see in yourself that you don’t like?
What is that you see, when you look at yourself, that makes you believe, that if people knew that about you, they would not receive you, accept you?
Then think about the idea that God sees you. Sees all of you
For exactly who you are
But loves you anyway…loves you with a love that sees the created to be you
With a love that creates value in you
A love that makes you a beloved child
A son or daughter of the King
A prince or a princess…
Know that God loves you that way
Image what that can mean, for how you love others
In loving that way… you bring the kingdom into this time, and this place.