Wednesday, November 9, 2011

where love comes from

This week's episode of House was entitled "The Confession."  In it, a man named Bob Harris is given a community service award but within hours engages in adultery and collapses in medical distress while with his mistress.  His wife and community are unaware of his dalliance, but he becomes guilt-stricken.  As the episode progresses, it appears that Bob needs a liver transplant from a living donor (a risky surgery at best).  Because he is well-loved in the community, scores of people show up to get tested and see if they are a donor match.  But Bob is filled with shame and decides he must confess to them his misdeeds before they donate an organ to him.  He feels it is not fair to ask this sacrifice of them unless they know the true nature of the scoundrel to whom they are donating.

So, he publicly confesses not only his affair, but also other misdeeds.  Cheating people.  Stealing.  Gambling.  All but two people walk away, disgusted.  And the two who remain are not matches. 

There's more to the episode, of course, but this episode called to mind the question that is hidden deep down at the bottom of our psyche: "If someone really knew me, inside and out, including all of my sins and my ugly thoughts and everything about me that I am ashamed of, would they truly love me?"  And beyond that, there is the niggling question, "If they don't know all of these things about me, can their love be genuine?"

In reality, it would be impossible to show someone every ugly thing about us that lies deep within.  Absolute confession and honesty are impossible, because they can also be relationship-destroying and personality-destroying.  Although we try to be as authentic and honest as possible, at the end of the day we cannot fully know another person's soul.  We can get only so close, only so intimate.  There is a part of us always hidden from the world's view and such is the alienation of being a sinful being.

But in answer to that first question, if it is possible to be fully known and still fully loved, the answer is yes.  There is One Being who knows us completely and loves us entirely. 

I remember the first time I realized that I Corinthians 13 is not first and foremost a description of the state of absolute love into which we are to work ourselves as human beings.  No, it is first and foremost that state of being in which God exists.  Have you ever read this chapter and replaced the word "love" with the word "Jesus"?  It's transformative.  You will never look at this chapter the same again.  Rather than being a litany of my failings, I Corinthians 13 becomes a powerful poem of how this Jesus loves me.  "We love because He first loved us."

How quickly I forget this truth.  I search the Scriptures, I search my mind for the answers of how to whip myself up into a state of absolute love.  As a sinful being, I cannot do this.  I fall down in shame, realizing how loveless I am.  I despair.  And then God's love hits me between the eyes.  "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

It hit me between the eyes this morning.  I was despairing over my so often loveless state today.  I wanted to read my Bible to find some answers, some moral motivation.  And as she is wont to do, my daughter called out to me from her bedroom.  I sighed and gathered up my Bible, hoping to read at least a few verses in her room while she lazily prepared to get up for the day. 

Burrito noticed my face, that it was sad.  "Don't be sad," she said.  "I'm sad when I think of all my sin,"I replied.  In a momentary step away from good theology (but give her a pass; she is three, after all), she told me, "Sin is not bad" (this being an attempt to explain away the problem and make me feel better).  I told her, "Sin is bad because it's those bad things in our hearts that turn us away from God, remember?" 

She replied, "Jesus died on the cross and He loves ya!"  

Oh those simple words.  I teared up.  It sounds silly to say, but I felt absolved, forgiven.  I felt God speaking to me through this little child.  I felt changed by this love.  My heart, in the words of Wesley, was strangely warmed.

In the end, all of the theologizing and moral attempts to be better fall flat before this most simple of Gospel preachings: "Jesus died on the cross and He loves ya!"  Jesus knows all of my failings.  He knows me inside and out.  There is no other person who has ever known my every thought, my every feeling, my every sin.  And there is no other person who has loved me enough to die for me.

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

I still need the Gospel.  I need it every day.  I need the simple Gospel, spoken through a child.

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