3 August 2013

My Song is Love Unknown: On mean Christians

There comes a point when you aren’t as stupid as before.  Your eyes and ears are opened, and you can finally see, hear, and understand the truth. Suddenly you see the subtle insults, the lies, the schemes, and so forth. It’s very depressing and sad.

What blinded you to this? It was love. And love covers a multitude of sins.

It’s a harsh truth, but nonetheless a fact of life: Some people, despite their membership in the Church, are just assholes.

Not just assholes, but mean, cruel, bitchy people who will take any chance to tear you down. They are hellbent on ripping you to shreds and trampling down any ounce of self-esteem you might have.

There are two options that many people take: To absorb the abuse, or to ignore it. You can take it unto yourself and define yourself by their standards. You can also simply ignore it, frankly not give a damn, return evil for evil, and probably end up the same way – cold-hearted, mean, and uncharitable.

These are two temptations anyone can succumb to. But there is a third way, a way that neither absorbs the abuse nor ignores the hurt it causes. It is a middle way, a via media that is not just an Anglican way, but the Christian thing to do: You can take and regard this water, then turn it into Gospel wine.

It’s not just a matter of blessing those who curse you nor turning the other cheek. That’s too passive. It is a challenge to take an imperfect offering and turn it into grace. To regard something hurtful to yourself with such love, compassion, and truth is a very difficult thing to do. It takes inner strength and patience to do this. Only the Holy Spirit can you give you these gifts through Christ.

“Regard not our sins, but the faith of your Church” the American Prayerbook (page 395) says.  I find it difficult sometimes to see these persons not as jerks, but as people who are struggling and frail like me. God loves them too. They may do well to hide it or make me feel less than a beloved child of God, but we are nevertheless sinners at the hands of a merciful and loving God. A good God who gives us grace we do not deserve nor earn. A God who continually forgives us. A God who takes our water – our sins, our lies, our bullshit – and turns it into grace, a wine of incomparable vintage and quality.

I pray for the grace not to absorb another’s sin, but to regard it with love, compassion, and understanding. And I pray to turn it into something that will be beneficial to themselves. Much of the time, these are cries simply to be loved, understood, and validated. I can get angry, very angry, and often I may act brashly. Nevertheless, I repent and I will try again. This is part of my Baptismal Covenant: When I fall into sin, to repent and return to the Lord.

There is an old custom that when someone exclaims using the name of God, the listener should say “have mercy”. This is to turn an exclamation into a prayer, so that the other person does not sin.

Would to God that we provide a mantle for those naked, and clothe them with dignity.

Continue loving them, even if they do not deserve it. God did. Sometimes, we may have to cover them with ourselves or even with the sacrifice of ourselves.  This is redemption. Buying back for God that which is truly at fault.

And mind you, it's a tough challenge to unconditionally love them and not to let them pull you down, at the same time

It takes guts to love the unlovable. But don’t love them because you have to; love them because you do truly love them. Often, it’s a parent’s love that can love despite the ingratitude and wrongdoing of children. It’s a parent who sees only their child, and not rules broken, nor their child's failures in life. It’s a parent who loves their child nevertheless. And it is a parent that will do anything to redeem their child at personal cost, even if the child fights back.

God is our Father-Mother and loves us as beloved children. Can we as the Church truly love others as God loves us? 

Samuel Crossman wrote this hymn in 1664:
My song is love unknown,
My Saviour’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I, that for my sake
My Lord should take frail flesh and die? 
He came from his blest throne
Salvation to bestow;
But men made strange, and none
The longed-for Christ would know:
But O! my Friend, my Friend indeed,
Who at my need his life did spend. 
Sometimes they strew his way,
And his sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King:
Then “Crucify!” is all their breath,
And for his death they thirst and cry. 
Why, what hath my Lord done?
What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run,
He gave the blind their sight,
Sweet injuries! Yet they at these
Themselves displease, and ’gainst him rise. 
They rise and needs will have
My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they save,
The Prince of life they slay,
Yet cheerful he to suffering goes,
That he his foes from thence might free. 
Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King!
Never was grief like thine.
This is my Friend, in whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.
We need each other. God grant me grace, and may I give grace to others, in Christ’s name. Amen.

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