To love as God loves

Love for God cannot be separated from love of neighbor. Jesus calls us to love God through our neighbor—by visiting prisoners, by hospitality to strangers, by actions that ostensibly give us no reward at the end of a long day’s work. Jesus seems idealistic at best. When we look around and see others prospering through violence or greed, most of us pay little attention to God’s love. How can we? After all, we live in a “real” world in which survival is paramount. Work with prisoners or those on death row may be typical of God’s kind of love, which gravitates toward generosity and gift, but not for our kind of love that is seeking to survive in a violent world. Jesus knows our dilemma, but he does not let us off the hook. He still requires us to channel God’s infinite generosity. Just as we cannot love God without loving our neighbor, we cannot worship in a church building without also ministering in a jail, hospital, or school.

God’s love always points toward the capacity to love outside of self-interest. When it came to heaven, Jesus was no realist—if by realism we mean self-interest. This was his genius. Perhaps the greatest lesson in this for us is to learn that we must prepare to love as God loves—through random acts of kindness. We prepare through our daily prayers. We prepare through the butterflies in our stomach when we make our first volunteer visit in a jail. This kind of preparation hones our skills of navigation as we make our way toward heaven—toward the real heaven, not just our own narcissistic version of heaven. We must practice heaven. In so doing, we catch glimpses of God’s idea of what’s real because we are increasing our attention span to see beyond the ordinary.

From “A Strange Route to Heaven” by Michael Battle, in Heaven, edited by Roger Ferlo. A Seabury Book from Church Publishing. Copyright © 2007. Used by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY.

Past Posts