Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?
- Paul of Tarsus
The problem with Christ's kind of love is that it hurts. Often times it seems wasteful and foolish, but the mysterious truth is that it is the only kind of love that will last. The invitation to take up our crosses is not so much about enduring hardhips like illness or poverty with the knowledge that one day such things will be no more. The invitation is an invitation to love people now in the way that we will love them in the age to come.
I want an easy Christianity, an easy love. But as my old friend Mr Beaver might reply, "Easy? Who said anything about easy? Of course it isn't easy. But it's good." If you read nothing else this weekend, read the following extract from William Willimon's book Who Will Be Saved? In it he describes the surprising "grain of the universe".
Jesus' love is what Jesus commands, something enabled by who he is. He expended everything. He laid down his life for a bunch of stupid, wayward sheep, friends who were also his betrayers.
In so doing, Jesus was not simply being a great ethical teacher; one is impressed by the impracticality of what Jesus commands. If you give everything you've got to the poor, eventually you will have nothing to give. And how does self-giving better the lot of the poor after they have consumed everything that you have given? Will such liberality only produce character flaws in the poor? If you so thoughtlessly give to the needs of others in this way, you will eventually be used by others who will take advantage of you. Taken to the extreme, it could lead to your death.
But then Jesus says that this is exactly where this should lead.