Yesterday was the fifth Sunday of Easter and it was a rather busy one for us. We attended our own morning service at our beloved Church of the Resurrection, Cathedral Church of the Anglican Diocese of the Upper Midwest and then drove 45 minutes south where we attended a confirmation service at the Roman Catholic Church Joliet Diocese’s Cathedral of St. Raymond Nannotus for our son in law. All in all, about 5 hours of liturgy yesterday, and nearly 2 hours of driving.
The Gospel reading at both services was the same one from John 13, herein borrowed from dailyoffice2019 dot com:
THE THIRD LESSON
The lesson is read, the people sitting
|Reader||A reading from the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St. John, beginning with the thirteenth chapter, the thirty-first verse|
A NEW COMMANDMENT
31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
|Reader||The Word of the Lord.|
|People||Thanks be to God.|
Now, the title of this blog post is obviously riffing off of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s discussion of cheap vs. costly grace. If you’re unfamiliar, it is basically the idea that one must understand the sheer cost to Christ to offer grace to us sinners. Failure to do so leaves us thinking Grace is a cheap and tawdry thing, rather than the pearl of great price or a treasure buried in a field.
So too, we must understand the difference between Cheap Love and Costly Love. I can’t be the first person to write on this, so I apologize if you’ve seen a better version. Send me a link or a reference, I’d love to read it.
First off, let’s take a look at that text in the original language:
Ἐντολὴν (a commandment) καινὴν (new) δίδωμι (I give) ὑμῖν (to you), ἵνα (that) ἀγαπᾶτε (you should love) ἀλλήλους (one another); καθὼς (as) ἠγάπησα (I have loved) ὑμᾶς (you), ἵνα (so) καὶ (also) ὑμεῖς (you) ἀγαπᾶτε (should love) ἀλλήλους (one another).
Now, we could get lost in a discussion of Greek words commonly translated as love in English: agapē, philo, storge and eros. The self giving, expecting no return Caritas, Charity of agape. The brotherly love amongst friends in philo. Or the strong familial love that is storge. Or the deep and raw passion or erotic love in eros. In this passage it is of course the first, that weighty word, ἀγάπη, agapē.
But, while word choice if of course important, it is even more important to notice the self referential definition given by Jesus. This isn’t some breathy use of “love”, just (insert soft warm tone) love one another. Not at all. It’s more like this:
‘So, we’ve been together for roughly three years. You’ve seen me work miracles. You’ve eaten with me, you’ve seen me feed thousands with a few loaves and fishes (twice even), you’ve watched me wash your feet and some of you have even seen me transfigured to the Glory I had with the Father before the foundation of the World. And now there is even more. One of my own twelve will betray me, you will all scatter, yes even you Peter. I will take upon myself the cruelest punishment the Roman Empire hands out for no crime whatsoever and then take upon myself even more, the sin of the whole world, the ultimate sacrifice, the very propitiation for your sins, to save you. Yet, even in my agony I will care for my mother and turn her over to be cared for by one of you. And I will die. You will hide in fear of the Jewish authorities. But I will Rise Again on the third day, and I will reveal myself to the women first. And they will run and tell you. And two of you will run and find but an empty tomb. Then, I will come to you, those who abandoned me in my darkest hour, and I will bless you and show myself to you. And I will impart the Holy Spirit to each of you. I am the measure of Love, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. By this measure of Love, all the things you have seen me do and say, this is the true measure of Love. Love each other as I have loved you.’ This is Costly Love.
Our reaction should be a bit like the famous line from Scotty to Captain Kirk “I just can’t do it captain, I just don’t have the pow’r.”
Now, I know we would really like to cry out like the Israelites at the giving of the Law, “We will Do it!” The Old Testament is documented proof of their failure to keep that promise. Jesus of course, is the remnant. The fulfillment of the Prophets and the only perfect one, the one man to fulfill all of the Law, to keep it perfectly. The Lamb without spot or blemish.
The truth is we need Jesus to be like Jesus. We need the Holy Spirit, we need to believe on Him who has saved us, Christ Jesus. To be like the Divine, we need the Divine.
Now Love, as Jesus defined it, this Costly Love is also to some degree Tough Love. Remember Jesus to Simon Peter, “get behind me Satan”? Wowza. We are locked in a pitched battle, Satan wishes to drag all to Hell while God is busy rescuing the least and the lost. The Love Christ has for us is Costly Love. It prays for the prodigal son to return and pleads with the older brother to come in and dine. It takes in the outcast Samaritan and pays for his bed and healing ointments. It tells you to “stop continually sinning” and “go and sin no more.”
Cheap Love says “oh, you feel you are a woman in a man’s body? Then you should definitely act on your lived reality.” Costly Love, says “my brother, this is not true. Your feelings are lying to you, what you are contemplating is a sin against God. I love you too much to say nothing. God has made you a man, you are a man. Come let me walk with you and pray with you.” Obviously these are gross oversimplifications of real conversations, but they are the boiled down version of those conversations.
There are many, many conversations about sin than just that one. Marital abuse, child abuse, infidelity, porn, substance abuse, greed, bitterness, gossip, ethnic hatred, misogyny, misandry, and so on and so on.
I will close with the first two verses of Ephesians 5:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.