Thirty-Fourth Day of Lent

John 15:18-27

Why? Why would the world hate those whose mandate, as Jesus has just been teaching, is to love?  What is so threatening about loving one another and loving one’s neighbour that would result in such hostility, such risk, such violence?

Polite, sentimental feelings or greeting card expressions are not dangerous. Robust, vertebrae love--love with depth and backbone, love that foments clear ethical vision--is. It’s dangerous to systems of control that are built on fear and mistrust of others--systems that protect or even promote one’s own interests or the interests of one people at the expense of another’s. This is because a robust ethic of love fosters prophetic vision (a vision of God’s kingdom), and living prophets have always been seen as a nuisance and, yes, a danger by the status quo.

Love like this is dangerous wherever it is practiced. It is not arrogant or rude, does not insist on its own way, does not rejoice in wrong doing--but it does, by its nature, cast an unwelcome light in places of darkness and obfuscation. A robust, self-giving love like that which Jesus practiced uncovers structures that are less than loving, and situations that are less than life-giving. It exposes social and economic practices that rely on the subjugation of one people for the enhanced quality of life of others. It condemns the inhumanity of one people prospering through the poverty of another people.  It lays bare the brokenness of relationships that empower one by disempowering another. It patiently amplifies the faltering words of stammering tongues, and relativizes the propaganda of the polished and powerful. Of course such a love is dangerous and hated by those who benefit from these unloving systems.

If the world is hating you, Jesus said to his disciples, remember that they hated me first. Washing feet, serving meals, leaders living as servants--this is a presence that un-love simply cannot tolerate and must humiliate, intimidate, swallow up, or outright remove.

So where does clarity of conviction and strength come from to face the opposition of the world in our practice of love? Certainly not from the accolades and affirmations of the wealthy, the powerful, or the popular. Our strength comes, Jesus reminds us, from the testimony of the indwelling “Spirit of truth”--certainly a gift worth pondering and pursuing during this Lenten journey.

Phil Wright 
Sanctuary Covenant Church
Edmonton, AB