Summary: How do we love like Jesus? For love, to be true, has to hurt just as it hurt Jesus to love us.
The day is December 11, 1979: in Oslo, Norway, an Albanian nun named Teresa, who has dedicated her life to live a simple life of love among the world’s poorest and most desperate people, receives one of the world’s most significant awards – the Nobel Peace Prize. As part of the proceedings, she had the opportunity to speak, and here is one of the things she said:
Jesus “insisted that we love one another as he loves each one of us. And we read that in the Gospel very clearly - love as I have loved you - as I love you - as the Father has loved me, I love you - and the harder the Father loved him, he gave him to us, and how much we love one another, we, too, must give each other until it hurts. It is not enough for us to say: I love God, but I do not love my neighbour. St. John says you are a liar if you say you love God and you don't love your neighbour. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbour whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live. And so this is very important for us to realise that love, to be true, has to hurt. It hurt Jesus to love us, it hurt him. And to make sure we remember his great love he made himself the bread of life to satisfy our hunger for his love. Our hunger for God, because we have been created for that love. We have been created in his image. We have been created to love and be loved, and then he has become man to make it possible for us to love as he loved us. He makes himself the hungry one - the naked one - the homeless one - the sick one - the one in prison - the lonely one - the unwanted one - and he says: You did it to me. Hungry for our love, and this is the hunger of our poor people. This is the hunger that you and I must find…”
There is much there worthy of further reflection, but the line I want to pull out for today is this: “And so this is very important for us to realise that love, to be true, has to hurt.”
In this space between the seasons of Advent, where we anticipate and celebrate the birth of Jesus, and Lent, where we anticipate and celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus, we have been talking together about the greatest theme in the life of Jesus: love. We know the words of Jesus in response to the question asked him, “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” 37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matt 22:36-40). We see and believe that loving God and loving our neighbor are indeed the greatest commandments, and most of us here today would wholeheartedly affirm our desire to obey Jesus’ command and truly, honestly, powerfully, live lives of love.
But how? That is the question we have been considering – how do we love like Jesus, today, in our culture, in our lives – how do we do that? In the previous two sermons in this series, we talked about some myths about love that our culture believes and contrasted them with Scripture: first, we agreed that love produces feelings, but is not itself a feeling; and second, that love is not temporary but rather permanent.
Today I want to dive into another aspect of love, and once again take us to Jesus to see if that rings true, and then talk about what that means for us in how we live lives of love. And that aspect was introduced by Mother Teresa’s affirmation that “love, to be true, has to hurt.”
Is that True?
Part of the exercise in this sermon series has been to read our culture, and compare/contrast that with the messages of Scripture about love. So the question is this – are there messages in our culture about love that would support the 30 year-old observations of a Catholic nun, or does our culture speak a different message? To get there, let’s reflect on what our culture has to say about pain and hurt – what is our culture’s view of these things? To be avoided at all costs, even ignored? A necessary but unpleasant part of life that must be endured? Or a genuine and valuable part of what it means to be human that shapes us in positive ways? Perhaps you see another possibility?? What do you think, and can you give us an example of a place where you see this message in our culture?