Resurrection is love — a rather simple, yet extraordinarily complex statement, at least when you look at the texts for this week.
Our passages this week, certainly from John, and even from Acts, suggest that an appropriate post-resurrection life motto is “choose love.” But that can be an awfully hard thing to do.
And why is that? Have we determined someone unworthy of our love? Are we afraid it won’t be reciprocated? Is it too much of a chance? Do we expect a return on our efforts? An adequate response to our investment? Because this is how love seems to work in our world. In a world that values agreements, securities, sureties, warranties, and contracts, in world that has as its motto “quid pro quo,” to love without a guarantee is a commandment that seems almost impossible to obey.
How we live resurrection love is full of challenges. Case in point, Peter having to explain to the Jewish leaders why he had dinner with the profane; Jesus having to explain to the disciples that they need to love one another, even amidst the threat that any one of them might betray the community at any time.
Jesus’ command to love one another is dangerously out of context. Read without its literary framework, it becomes another biblical platitude quoted by those who think it’s easy and who rarely stick to it themselves. It ends up on posters with the backdrop being some sort of idyllic scene of an ocean, snow-capped mountains, a rushing waterfall, or birds flying across a bright blue sky. It actually seems doable.
But, of course Jesus’ command in John follows the presence of evil and the departure of Judas. This is exactly when we need to be reminded to choose love — when evil seems to be having its way. When those we thought were close, we thought we could trust, abandon us. When the actions and words of others clearly come from hate and suspicion and prejudice. Choose love.
And our decision to choose love does not even have to be in the face of the most overt and blatant expressions of its opposite. Our lives are full of minor incidents, if you will, when we can decide to come from a place of love rather than one of frustration and anger and judgment. And, as you very well know, parish ministry is full of these minor incidents.
The disciples were commanded to choose love in the aftermath of betrayal and in the midst of uncertainty. This is what “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” means. This is the kind of love Jesus is asking us to live — not for guarantees, not for reciprocity, not for assurances, but for the sake of a different way to live in the world. And why? So that the world can come a little closer to knowing God’s love.
Often, we think steps towards love demand a major effort. Sometimes, this can be true. But this past week, I have been reminded of how choosing love is not only a different way to live in the world, but also a different way to see the world.
In other words, when you love, you can more easily see the love that surrounds you. When you love, you can more readily recognize acts of love. When you love, you can more clearly sense expressions of love. Love can often be overlooked, taken for granted, dismissed as just an act of kindness when you are not used to living in love.
“Love one another as I have loved you” is not a reference only to the foot washing. It is meant to remind the disciples of the entirety of Jesus’ time with them. While the miraculous deeds were certainly signs of Jesus’ love for them and for the world, simple signs of love likely permeated Jesus’ life with his disciples. Stop and imagine that for just a moment. What happens when those easily overlooked, taken for granted kind of actions become the ways and way of love?
Choose love is doing it, looking for it, and naming it. It is living a life that that loves unconditionally and calls attention to the love you receive, love you can never repay — and that is the point.
This past week I received a box of some leftover items that were handed out at a women’s retreat I led back in February — fun things like a book bag, lip balm, a notebook — all with the retreat theme logo on them. Included in the box was an envelope that said, “this is just for you.” Inside was what looked like a square from an afghan, knitted or crocheted (I am sadly not able to tell the difference!), in beautiful, bright colors, spring colors. On a rectangular piece of paper, the following explanation was included: “May this pocket-sized prayer shawl, made with love and infused with prayers, be a sign of God’s sustaining presence. May it refresh you in times of weariness and provide comfort in times of anxiety or loneliness. May it bring joy, gladness, and brightest blessings.” It now has a permanent place in my school bag. I love reaching in my bag for something — a pen, a tissue, my eyeglass cleaner — and feeling my pocket-sized prayer shawl. I remember I am loved and to choose love.
Resurrection is love.