Four Hundred Texts on Love 14

Posted: May 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: St. Maximos the Confessor | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Four Hundred Texts on Love 14

48. The person who fears the Lord has humility as his constant companion and, through the thoughts which humility inspires, reaches a state of divine love and thankfulness. For he recalls his former worldly way of life, the various sins he has committed and the temptations which have befallen him since his youth; and he recalls, too, how the Lord delivered him from all this, and how He led him away from a passion-dominated life to a life ruled by God. Then, together with fear, he also receives love, and in deep humility continually gives thanks to the Benefactor and Helmsman of our lives.

Several threads of thought have bounced around my head as I’ve meditated on this text. The first thought is that the “buddy Jesus” so common today in Western evangelical Christianity is largely useless to me. I can look at the history of the fierce, angry, and autocratic God that was (and I suppose still is in places) proclaimed in so much of recent Western Christianity and I can understand why people felt the need to emphasize and even over-emphasize his love and accessibility. And don’t get me wrong, a God of love who is rescuing and seeking union with his creation is a marvelous and wonderful thing. I’m not particularly interested in trying to placate an angry God. And there is much that is deeply compelling about a personal and loving God that is lacking in most monist perspectives of reality. (When I was pursuing and following other religions, I tended to bounce between monism and polytheistic perspectives. Maybe that’s one reason I found Hinduism so attractive.)

But Jesus and I are not and cannot be equals. Yes, he emptied himself in the mystery of the Incarnation and joined with us, experiencing all that we experience, and opening the door for us to union with God. He “became man so that man might become God.” But just as much as Jesus is human, he is also the uncreated Word, the speech-act of God, the Son of the Most High. Moreover, he has ascended to the throne at the right hand of the Father as the Lord of creation. Ascension does not mean flying or floating in the air in this context. It’s the language of a king coming into the fullness of his power and authority. Jesus is the Lord over all creation.

If you have ever been helpless and vulnerable in the face of evil, you will know that we need a powerful Lord. “Buddy Jesus” might be a great guy with whom to hang out and have some fun, but is he the mighty God who has made the powers his footstool? God is absolutely a God of love, but that love is also a consuming fire. Who can stand in its light? If you begin to recognize who Jesus is, then respect, awe, and in that context, fear must necessarily follow. Not the sort of fear one has for the tyrant, but the fear one feels before the mighty and benevolent king.

If you see Jesus for who he is, then humility naturally follows. And it is only from within fear and humility that we can truly receive and be filled with love. Pride is as natural to us as breathing, but pride is the enemy of love. Pride also tends to flow from our need to order the world around us and make it safe. When we release that load and in humility trust the one who actually has the power to order reality, we can enter a better reality of love.

Moreover, when we begin to do that, we begin to be able to see ourselves as we truly are. We are able to see our lives through different eyes and recognize not only that we have “sinned” (which means to miss the mark), but how and why our passion-dominated life did miss the mark. Until we are freed, we sometimes don’t even realize we were captive.

Like many in our culture, I am also deeply individualistic. “I am the Master of my fate, I am the Captain of my soul.” That is our battle cry and our ideal. But it is also delusion. We exist as human beings in a deeply interwoven web of interconnections. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we depend on each other and our fates are intertwined. Jesus the Christ, our one true Lord, can make us free, but he will not force freedom on us. If you consider it, you realize the idea itself is absurd. If I am coerced, even by God, then I am not free and any freedom offered is a lie. Jesus provides the door, the gate, the way, and the power of true freedom to all who will take up their cross and follow him.

But we have to decide that we want to be free.


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