Seven Last Words 07


"He said to his mother: 'Woman, behold your son' then he said to the Disciple: 'Behold your mother'." - John 26:27.

There is no word more abused than "love"; it is the human talent for corrupting the divine that can take its most sacred word and turn it into selfishness. I love chocolate means I want chocolate; I love a girl means I lust after her; I love you means I want something you have; I am doing this out of love means that you must be more like me.

We have got it completely wrong. If ever a word has been turned upside down and inside out, if ever a glass has been fractured, if ever a picture has been blurred, if ever a candle has been blown out, it is love.

Love is not something that we do to other people, love is making space where people can do what they want without precondition. It is that simple; and that difficult. How else could we understand it?

I am born to choose to love or not to love; I perform a variety of acts of preference and denial; I form friendships and break them; I marry and divorce and marry again; I try to love my children but sometimes I am speechless and indifferent; sometimes I cannot express how deeply I feel and sometimes I too readily say how deeply I feel when it would be better to say nothing; and yet, through all of this thicket of small torments and triumphs, Jesus loves me.

And do I think Jesus loves me for what I have done or not done? How can my actions and words, my restraint and silence, be worthy of the love of My Saviour? How can I think that there is some correspondence between what I do and how Jesus relates to me?

Of course there is no correspondence. There is no way of describing the relationship between the love of Jesus and the way I behave; they are not relational in any way we understand; and for that reason, for that state of being, I live in a judgment free space, a space of love, which God has created for me and in which I live and move and have my being. Jesus meets me in this space which God has made; he meets me on earthly ground which God has made, he meets me by a lake and in the city, He meets me on a mountain and in a market town; he meets me wherever I am but he never pushes or pulls, he never makes a face or drops a hint; he never passes a comment on what I have done or on what I intend to do. He inhabits my space when I let Him and sometimes when I do not, thanks to the zeal of the Holy Spirit. But He lets me know that it is my space. I am not living in His space; for God lives in God's own kind of space quite separate from mine.

Here He is now, living in earthly space, ready to die so that we may continue to live in space created by His love; here he is commending His mother to a friend and the friend to His mother. He has no other instructions; he does not lecture them on what love might mean; He seems not to be interested in obedience.

And yet there are Christians walking in Our Saviour's Church Of Love with a list in their hands of the components of love, who think that love is a form of obedience. They carry lists of what love requires, of actions, words and attitudes which will indicate whether we are loving or not loving. They have rules for who can love who and who cannot, they have rules for what is good love and not good love; they have honed love down to a set of proofs that Euclid would recognise; there are propositions, working out and proof statements; there is a whole sub culture of love theorems which have been devised to circumscribe, to keep people in confined spaces, to ensure that love does not get out of control. In an act of supreme arrogance, divine love is modelled in human love, divine enterprise is modelled in human enterprise; but, worst of all, divine space is cramped into human ecologies. There are supreme moments in our lives when we know how to love outside the walls but we grow frightened; we do not flex, we wither.

Jesus is a terrible disappointment to the Pharisees and to contemporary Christian leaders. He sits with sinners and enjoys a meal and he says nothing about their bad behaviour. He disrupts a perfectly proper trial of a prostitute and sends the prosecution packing. He forgives sins without ever wanting to know what the sins were. He spends a lot of his time telling the law makers that their laws are not divine at all but a human invention. He seems to like the outcast Samaritans, he has a soft spot for the Prodigal son, he empathises with the Publican at the back who thinks Himself not worthy to pray, he tells Peter that he will deny Him but seems to think that recognition of the denial by Peter will be punishment enough; He even seems to have no complaint against Pilate.

Looked at objectively, Jesus is a discredit to contemporary Christianity; He refuses to judge, all he wants to do is to love.

And we, as we watch the final minutes of his life, as we see Mary and John bravely approaching the foot of the cross, where do we stand in the argument between love and judgment? Are we prepared to take the risk of love, of creating space where others might do things we would prefer them not to do, or are we content to be Pharisees, defining everything that must happen and must not happen in earthly space? Are we prepared to take the risk of love and then ask Our Saviour for the strength, when we have taken that first step, not to judge when we feel that the space we have created has been violated, that we have been let down.

What we so often mean when we think this way is that our love has not been returned; that we are, in love terms, in debit. But if we think that love is a matter of debit and credit we have misunderstood. Love is a valve, it is one way, it is not a boomerang, it goes and it goes and it goes; for its own sake. That is why parents who expect their children to return love are fatally deluded. It goes and it goes and it goes; But of course the more of it you give away the more of it you have; the more space you make the more capacity you have for making space.

No wonder people worry about love and the space it creates; love is the greatest risk of all; but that risk is under-written by the King of Love who hangs before us now.

Jesus, surveying the desolation of Calvary, with his dying breaths is still God's child of love, still making space for others to love.

The mystery of love is that the closer we come to our Saviour, the more space we have.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, as You hang upon the Cross with no thought but love for those who are faithful, forgive us for a love that pinches and encircles; may we struggle towards the cross, freed from the desire to control to live in Your openness, learning to make space for all our sisters and brothers as the vessels of Your love. Amen.