Jesus was clear. His message straightforward. His piercing insight unending. Sadly, tragically and unbelievably, in the two thousand years since he rose from the dead, layer upon layer of messaging, hierarchies, the unquenchable desire for power and control, politics, certitude, physical and organizational structures, fear, oppression, exclusion, egos, rules, clergy, liturgical practices and personal preferences have subdued and complicated what Jesus said life is all about to the point that it is now nearly unrecognizable in many communities of faith. Too often, communities of faith often alienate, harm, and drive humankind away from the reason we are alive to begin with.
Jesus said everything, no exceptions, is about love. Jesus did not say, “Love, and” or “Love, but.” He simply spoke of love, with no add-ons, no addendums and no additions that get us off the hook. Our work, the decisions we make, the manner in which we conduct ourselves and treat all people, the relationships we enjoy, the activities we undertake, our faith life, the standards and views we hold, can be infused with and based upon the kind of love Jesus spoke about, or not.
God is love. This is what Jesus taught and how he lived and, more often than not, the religious people around him could neither tolerate nor accept this message. Jesus was killed by the most religious around him because love meant letting go of power, control, self, opinions and ego. Jesus never said the love he spoke of was meant for only certain domains of life. Rather the love imperative of which he spoke applied not only to religious leaders, but to all people in every dimension of life.
Loving God, loving others, loving ourselves is the simplest yet most astonishingly difficult choice we are given. Love is the most demanding path. What is heartbreaking to me is that love, by many, is no longer considered to be the center of what it means to follow Jesus. Love is often relegated to the back seat superseded by religious leaders who speak far more of judgement, exclusion, hell, salvation, who is in and who is out, political alignment and engagement, condemnation of other religious traditions, hostility toward those on the margins and just about anything that has nothing to do with the love of which Jesus taught.
Others now understandably reject religion saying that some of what has gone terribly awry in history is due to religion. This statement is not only correct, but a profound reflection of Christians who have distanced themselves from Jesus’ simple and clear statement that the purpose of everything is love.
Near the end of his life, Jesus said to those around him, “Love as I have loved you.” He did not say convert, save, change, challenge, condemn, judge, protect maintain, eliminate, or detail a long list of rules. He simply said, “Love as I have loved you.”
At the Chapel we have been working and will continue to work, however imperfectly, to take Jesus’ love imperative seriously. Some have challenged us for it. Others have left. Some have said, “Sure, love, but….” Others have concluded I don’t take the Bible seriously. Some have joined us in doing everything we can to be a different kind of community of faith in which love is first and love is last, period.
I take Jesus at his word. Loving God, loving others and loving ourselves is the reason for life and why the Chapel exists. It is our mission. It is the point. It is what we are about. And it is such love and Jesus’ resurrection that ignited the world 2000 years ago before all the stuff that exists today got in the way.
All of this leads me to sharing what I believe is the most important question in life. That question is, “What does love require of me?” I believe we are compelled to ask this question throughout each day, wherever we find ourselves, in whatever setting. When we ask this question continually and act upon our answers, we will find ourselves moving closer and closer to Jesus and toward ushering in the kind of world God envisions.