As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:9-13
What do we see when we look at Jesus on the cross? Do we see love as the primary feature and character of Jesus? Even as he felt forsaken by God, did he not still feel the presence of love? His own love for the people around him – both those who loved him in return and those who were in charge of putting him to death?
This kind of love is difficult to comprehend. But can that love be more powerful than suffering and death? To believe that Jesus carried a great love for all people as he went through each part of this journey opens up the story even further. It is an intense, aching kind of love that longs to break through into the world, longs for those who are far off to come close, longs for those who are consumed by hate to lay the hate down and be healed. In the midst of Jesus’s great suffering as he hung on the cross, we are told that he spoke words of love – love for his mother, love for the dying thief, love and forgiveness for those who were putting him to death, for those who had betrayed and denied him.
God-given love flows down like water – it will seek a way in. It can move with force but can also move in a slow trickle. When met with a barrier, it will continue at the humblest level and in that way, it becomes unstoppable.
The movie Of Gods and Men provides a view of this kind of love. We see it in the companionship of a group of French monks as they face the dilemma of staying or leaving their mission in Algeria, knowing that they may face death if they stay. The monks gather to make their decision and as they choose to remain in Algeria they share a feast, a kind of last supper full of beauty and love and tears. The abbot, Fr. Christian, leaves behind a letter which is read after he is killed along with most of his community. The letter speaks of thankfulness and forgiveness even for the one who will kill him in the end.
How does the love of Jesus change our story? Can we nurture and strengthen our own sense of God’s love so that we can endure God-forsakenness? Is that in fact the only way we can?