Have you ever looked at a word for so long that it begins to not make sense any more? Love. Love. Love. Hate. Hate. Hate. Are those words all that different on paper?
What is love? Do we even really understand it as a concept? We say things like all we need is love, or just love each other, or any number of pithy statements that fit on a pillow. What does it all mean?
We live in a time when nothing should be taken for granted. No meanings or definitions can go unchecked and unrefined. There is too much at stake. We live in a time when we have thrown away the “givens” and the presumptions, and now we need to choose to either back-paddle to find meanings lost or mistaken, or we are heading over the falls of miscommunication, losing our compassion and understanding along the way.
We could, as many seem to do, spend a lot of time and energy bemoaning the loss of “tradition” or some canonical understanding of history and sociology, but, with the exception of studying it in order to understand current cultures, it seems like a great waste of precious resources better utilized in the current work of rebuilding.
The question for me is this: is the American Church going to do the work? Are we going to seek to understand and build bridges to this “brave new world” (dare I use that phrase?) or are we going to get busy fortifying our defenses and protecting ourselves? In the wise words of a great man, ok Wolverine, “The best defense is a good offense. Or is it the other way around?”
It isn’t the first time in history that the Church has felt threatened. Clearly. And there has always been a range of fight or flight responses from Jesus’ bride. We need to hide (monastery life sounds boring until you break out the beers and then it just gets kuhrazee). We need to fight (kill the infidels). We need to defend ourselves (um, what are we boycotting these days?) We need to put “these people” in their places (what did I tell you about washing up after a weekly cross burning)! I could go on. I won’t. Point is when is the Church going to stop feeling threatened? Is there a place for Christians to feel threatened? We act out of fear. There is one thing to fear and it’s not fear itself, sorry, JFK. It’s the Creator and Sustainer of all things and He isn’t pleased with our arrogance and the pain we have inflicted on others who don’t fall in line.
Make no mistake. I’m not issuing a war cry, per se. I’m not saying let’s storm the castle because God is on our side. At least not in the way you think. There is a castle to be stormed. There is an enemy to be fought. There are dragons to be slain.
And they’re US. It’s all us. It’s not THEM. It’s in our hearts. We have let our crystal palaces become our way of life. We’ve made deals to ensure our comfort levels and called it the American Dream. We have become our own worst enemy because of our sinfulness and pride. We have created and allowed dragons to exist among us – we don’t talk about our greed. We don’t address our power lust. We refuse to take responsibility for anything wrong in the church or in society. We just want everyone to do what we say and think what we think. We stopped wooing and we started threatening, because we felt threatened.
What does a good king do?
What if the people we’re called to love are in front of us? In our own kingdom, so to speak? What if we are so busy yelling and taunting another kingdom, that we’ve missed the needs right under our noses? I taunt you a second time! A good king is committed to taking care of his own. A good king appoints good people to provide adequate shelter and provisions.
A good king loves. He sees his position of power and authority as a call to serve and provide. He outdoes himself in protecting and caring for his people. He uses all his wealth and resources to truly make his kingdom great – meaning every one is well cared for and every need, and even some wants, are met. He loves. He loves so deeply with honor and integrity. He sacrifices, not his people, but his very self.
This is our good and gracious King. Who are we? Who am I? I am his bride. And as such, am I doing the things a good and gracious Queen would do? Am I carrying out his wishes? Or am I going about my own agenda and feeling worried about our borders, our provisions, our own children and heritage? Am I threatened?
Or am I confident in the work of the King? Will the Gospel triumph, with or without me and my efforts? Am I actively seeking out ways to join in this work, knowing full well that all will be as the King ordains, and that there is no way my King will ever lose? Oh, Church, do we KNOW our King will win? Does it make a difference to our hows and whys?
Who is going to redefine love for this generation? This society we have watched being built and rise up is no less in need of the grace and goodness of our King than any other those before. We have been handpicked by the King to be the bearers of that grace and goodness. We have been asked to rewrite the dictionary. We have been asked to listen and to respond with love and wisdom. We have been asked to share our stories – the one that starts with the King and ends with the King. We don’t have time to fight among the clans. We don’t have time or resources to throw away at wars that are not about the cross. (And no, not all wars are). Let’s not spend our energy with being threatened, or threatening others. Let’s not focus on what everyone else is doing wrong. Let’s focus on what WE are doing wrong, repenting and being forgiven, then going forward in gospel confidence that the King is still on the throne and that He is continually changing hate into love – first in our own hearts.