Richard Rohr has said, “There is nothing you can do to make God love you more; and, there is nothing you can do to make God love you less.”
If Richard is correct – and I believe he is with every inch of my being – then it follows that no one can do anything or be anything that will be a reason for condemnation. To follow Jesus, to be the Body of Christ, is not to wave a banner of an arrogant or misguided patriotism or nationalism that sets us apart, where we believe our own nonsense about our superiority. Following Christ means that our first reflex and impulse is to fly the flag of radical inclusivity, acceptance, and wholeness. Read through the three consecutive parables found in Luke: The Lost Sheep (Lk. 1:1-7); the Lost Coin (Lk. 15:8-10); and the Prodigal Son story (Lk. 15:11-32). Everything in these gospel passages speak of a God who is always running toward us; where transformation leads to restoration, and then completes itself in wholeness.
Love above all.
This is the Gospel that is truly “pro-life” because it proclaims that no one is on the outside – no, everyone is on the inside! Everyone, yes, everyone is the recipient of Jesus’ proclamation, “I have come that you might have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10). There are no clauses included here to sparse this gift out to only some of God’s children. God’s love has no restrictions or distinctions.
God loves people who are pro-life, and also, yes, those who are pro-choice. God loves straight people, and God also loves those who are gay, lesbian, and yes, transgender. God loves Democrats and God loves Republicans, Socialists and Communists. God loves Catholics and God loves Protestants. God loves Christians, and of course, God loves Jews and Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, Druids – and even those who claim to be atheist. God loves those who have abortions, and those who have performed them; God loves those who are incarcerated for murder; and as the popular text by the hymn writer Shirley Erena Murray has dared to sing, God loves the “abuser” as well as the “abused.”
Love above all.
This Jesus is constantly hanging out with all of the “wrong people:” prostitutes, tax collectors; he loved the woman who the men brought before him to be stoned for adultery – and he loved the man who for the cultural sexism of the time, got off scot-free. Jesus was the very first public opponent of the death-penalty – just ask the two criminals who were at his left and right at the crucifixion. Love was the only response that Jesus could have possibly have, even at the moment of his own execution. God’s love requires no entrance exam; there are no prerequisites. God loves all – it is simply impossible for God to build up any wall, or to deny such lavish love to anyone. The God revealed in Jesus is not consumed with judgment or expectations of perfection from us – a perfection that we, too often, want to define.
Love above all.
Far too often we use Jesus, the scriptures, and our own personal faith to justify stances that simply are not biblical at all, and most certainly, not part of the authentic Christian tradition. Instead of barking out bible verses out of context, how about we all become a “living of the Word?” How about we choose to live in opposition to a strand of faith that believes that God loves the successful and the wealthy. Yes, God loves the successful – because God loves everyone. But God’s love reaches out beyond our narrow distinctions. Today, we often hear it said like this: “God loves those who help themselves.”
No … sorry. Again, God loves everyone. But I do believe that God does hold a special love for those who care for one another. Jesus was the living revelation of radical inclusion that proclaims and sings that God’s love – that is illustrated and seen through the choices and acts of compassion – is for the least of these, and all in of need God’s care. In our prayers of praise, pleading, lament and thanksgiving, we need to recognize and celebrate this love that is the greatest authority in our life:
You alone are gentle, tender: Love, love above all.
Never changing, never aging: Love, love above all.
You creating; you, redeeming: Love, love above all.
With forgiveness and with healing: Love, love above all.
In the noise and in the silence: Love, love above all.
Mercy, kindness, ever giving: Love, love above all.
Every place, at every hour: Love, love above all.
Honor, blessing, meditation: Love, love above all.
Praising found in all our singing: Love, love above all.
Glory be with great thanksgiving: Love, love above all.
Such love is always expanding things. Such love is huge. Such love shatters any attitude or “ism” that has the demonic audacity to decide who is in our out. It is a love that rejects control that wants to create and offer idolatry to a God that we want to believe is just like us; it is a love that embraces that it is exactly to be the opposite. This was God’s plan for Jesus, to announce this authority, this re-defining and corrective definition of love.
You and I are called to take up the cause of Christ – remember that “Christ” was not Jesus’ last name. He was not the son of Joe and Mary Christ. “Christ” is the ongoing mystery of God’s astonishing love that reigns above all things. You and I are the Christ. You and I are the second coming. And this message of this second coming, is the love of God that is not wrapped in fright: “There is no fear in love. For perfect love drives out all fear” (1 John 4:18).
How do we live out our mission as the “Christ” in the world? We begin by caring for one another. We begin by taking on a passionate dedication, not to a flag or a nation or a political philosophy. We embrace God’s love, this crazy and wonderful love that shouts out to the world we are able to see this Christ in everyone; that no one is shut out; that love always wins.
Love above all.
[The text for “Love Above All” Copyright © 2019 David Haas/Emmaus Communications; a division of the Emmaus Center for Music, Prayer and Ministry. Printed with permission. All rights reserved.]