Lesson 11: Truth and Love (Part 2)

The Raised FistI find that I have trapped myself, and you, by examining the conflict between power and love during Holy Week. The church year narrative uses this period to present the ultimate confrontation of these truth claims. Current news reports remind us we find ourselves in the same situation in real life.

The Holy Week narrative begins with people praising Jesus as the one who comes in the name of the Lord. However, when they quickly realize that the implications of his message define love as overcoming violence by returning good for evil, caring especially for the weak, and forgiving sin seventy times seven times, their praise turns to ridicule. The Gospel of Mark takes pains to report that everyone mocked Jesus. The evangelist also makes clear Jesus’ trial found him guilty for claiming to be exactly who he is and then adding that everyone will be judged at the Last Day by the standards of the truth he spoke. A crisis is reached when the people chose Barabbas (a son of the father known as a violent rebel) rather than Jesus (a son of the father who lives and teaches unconditional love). Finally, Jesus’ execution is described as God’s ultimate act of love in that he dies for other people.

From a human perspective, power conquers love in this narrative. However, the story concludes with an Easter message in which God proclaims the triumph of love.

You have to be blind and deaf not to realize we find ourselves right smack in the middle of that same conflict today. We are constantly asked to choose between the truth claims of power and love. Everyone gives lip service to love. However, when the implications of Christian love are presented as real options, they are mocked. Mockery fills our public conversation on both sides. If the type of love taught and lived by Jesus is advocated as a lifestyle, it is judged unworthy of consideration. Although every democratic election includes some element of the play between power and love, we are never presented with a pure love option. Instead candidates base their case on how ruthless they will be in using power. And, as in Holy Week, we find not only business and political but also religious authorities speaking for power that subdues and eliminates our enemies and against love that makes enemies into friends.

Even now Jesus’ words to the weeping women along the way to the cross ring true. “You do not know what makes for peace!”

The Christian life involves the attempt to resolve the conflict between love and power in our daily lives. If it is faithful to Jesus’ direction, it has to begin with the events of Holy Week and Easter. Indeed, at every communion we sing the Palm Sunday hosannas. We praise Jesus’ truth with “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” and at least profess, as Paul says in Romans 5,’ that the love of God is poured into our hearts through this means of grace.

Remember Paul goes on in this passage to confess that we best understand what happens in the communion meal by reference to the Holy Week experience. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

Jesus’ followers struggle with how we shall use this unconditional love in our violent world. Because none of us loves God with all of our heart, mind, and soul, most of us find we cannot completely imitate Jesus. However, we can surely do a lot better in speaking and living a love that gives and forgives, shares and heals.

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  1. Derek Halverson says:

    As I often do on Good Friday I find myself reflecting not just on the suffering of our Lord, but the wrongness or at least bizarreness of the situation.

    It seems like Jesus ought to just turn Pilate’s water into Pepsi and everyone should get along and learn the power of love.

    However I also appreciate the brutal and painful honesty of the Gospels, that though you pray until your sweat is like drops of blood hitting the ground, and regardless all will not necessarily be right in this world.

    I agree with the above assessment regarding “pure love options”. Though in part I think the mockery comes from people feeling a need to justify a “love option” in terms of being effective in this world. Those convolutions often deserve mockery. People, Christians included, aren’t very comfortable saying that a certain plan for their family or a policy for their government is indeed the worse choice in terms of the things of this world and will have a number of negative consequences, but it is still the right thing to do.

    My mind tries to comfort itself by thinking of some small ways I’ve taken up my cross.

    But, well, I’m still very sympathetic towards Peter.

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