How do we love what God loves?

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blamesless for the day of Christ …”

Phil 1:9-10

 

Here is an excellent and challenging comment on these verses from Alec Motyer:

 

“the hymn-writer caught the matter perfectly:

That I may love what Thou dost love,

And do what Thou wouldst do.

In this respect Christian love is no different from any other sort of love: it can both waste itself upon unworthy objects and also bestow itself on proper objects in unworthy ways. In other words it needs divine illuminative knowledge in order to know what to love, and discernment to know how to love.”

 

Twisted Lips: the love of God displayed

The following are some of the most evocative words I’ve read in a long time. Read them slowly and allow your imagination the space to fill in the full colour and intensity:

 

“In his book Mortal Lessons, by Richard Selzer, MD, writes:

I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. She will be thus from now on. The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I  had to cut the little nerve.

Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily? The young woman speaks.

“Will my mouth always be like this?” She asks.

“Yes,” I say, “it will. It is because the nerve was cut.”

She nods and is silent. But the young man smiles.

“I like it,” he says, “It is kind of cute.”

All at once I know who he is. I understand and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with a god. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mount and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show her that their kiss still works.

 

Since reading this passage, the image of the husband contorting his mouth and twisting his lips for an intimate kiss with his palsied wife haunted me. Yet something eluded me until, one day in prayer, it exploded anew in my memory of the violence on a hill outside the city wall of old Jerusalem. The mangled body of the Son hangs exposed to the world’s derision. He is a blasphemer of God and a seducer of the people. Let Him die in disgrace. His friends are scattered, His honor broken, His name a laughingstock. He has been forsaken by His God. Left absolutely alone. Drive Him out of the holy city and across the tracks where His kind belong. The ragamuffin Christ is roughly handled, rushed around, scourged and spat upon, murdered and buried among His own ilk…”

A Prayer

“[Thank you Lord], for Your lips twisted in love to accommodate my sinful self; for judging me not by my shabby good deeds but by Your love that is Your gift to me; for Your unbearable forgiveness and infinite patience with me; for other people who greater gifts than mine; and for the honesty to acknowledge that I am a ragamuffin. When the final curtain falls and You summon me home, may my last whispered word on earth be a wholehearted cry, “[Thanks you Lord]””.

Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

To love at all is to be …

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

– C.S. Lewis

A bundle of paradoxes by Brennan Manning

“when I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.”

Brennan Manning