Big, Beautiful Love

Years ago, I was at the front of a church for communion.  I was praying my usual prayer of “God, forgive me. I haven’t been very faithful this week.” Communion made me think about all the ways I wasn’t measuring up: impatience, frustration, lack of prayer, the list went on and on in my head. That day, suddenly, these words echoed in my head: “I love you.”

I’m not one to frequently hear the voice of God. But I have no doubt that God was trying to break through my self-centeredness. Instead of rejoicing in the love around me, I was focused on my own small, miserable foibles. 

I had made communion about my own worries instead of about the bigger, more beautiful life and love that God was inviting me into.

I won’t go into the multiplicity of different ways Christians have understood the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection over the years. If you want to read about interpretations other than that of blood sacrifice for sin, contemplative Franciscan theologian Richard Rohr has articles on “Alternative Orthodoxy” that I find helpful. But I will say this: long before my mind wondered about other ways to understand communion, my heart found that this ritual could be about love and not guilt. That I was enough, without trying harder or frantically doing more things to be worthy.

In the wake of the inauguration, with the whole country in turmoil and so many people hurt or scared or defensive, I wonder if this story helps illustrate the reaction of the Christian community. When our vision of God is of a being who keeps score of all the ways we aren’t measuring up, we can’t see past our own entrenched positions. Convinced that we’re right, we see disagreement as a threat to God (as if we are needed to protect God from threat!).

Instead, if we see God as Love, flowing in and out and around us, suddenly our focus changes to the bigger, more beautiful community that God is wants us to be part of: God’s kingdom, kin-dom, Shalom, reign, peace (whatever you want to call it).

Maybe, starting from a place of security, knowing that we are loved and cherished and enough, we will be more concerned about loving others. Maybe instead of trying to protecting God, we will be more likely to protect all of God’s people.

I don’t know where this election is taking us as a country. But I know that we all—people from every political party, every different country of origin, every belief system—are being invited into a Love that is bigger than we understand. It is hard for me to hold onto that sometimes when I see people hurting all around me. But it is a truth that is needed now more than ever.

What I must work to remember is that, though I may disagree with someone else, that person is just as loved as I am. That person is just as much wanted in the Shalom of God. That’s a radical thought—but then consider who we follow: a radical refugee who invited everyone in and shared water with those who worshipped other gods, visited the houses of those who cheated and lied, spent time talking with those who had great power and privilege, and touched those with infectious diseases. If Jesus is our model, how can we do anything else?