Saturday, September 03, 2011

The Debt of Love - homily for Proper 18:Yr A


Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves one another has fulfilled the law

Love and obligation might seem, at first glance, to be uneasy bedfellows.
Love, we think, is all about positive feelings – warm, spontaneous, instinctive, untrammelled, - whereas debt, - well that has quite different associations.....
On that basis, the concept of a debt of love is hard for us to engage with.
We might understand the need to love when we ourselves are loved, in an kind of fair exchange, an enhanced version of the principle that “one good turn deserves another” , but it seems to me that Paul has something quite different in mind.
To owe a debt to someone is to recognise what is their due, so we are forced to consider whether or not all people are “due” love...and it would be hard indeed to argue that they weren't.
Jesus is very clear about this – we are told straight out to love our enemies...and, by implication, everyone else as well.

In other words, it seems that Love is a universal debt, which we have no option but to pay.

Sometimes, of course, this is very easy..
When confronted with family and friends, our duty to love matches our loving feelings and the debt is paid gladly and freely.
But, as I tell wedding couples time and again, love is a choice and not a feeling.
It's a choice to consciously seek the other's good with all your heart and mind and strength....
It is not the same as always being “nice” to them....for love can be challenging and uncomfortable for lover and beloved alike.
Those on the receiving end of “tough love” may not recognise the genuine love that is present – but it's there all the same....
Love is not a passive process...Rather it is active and risky, relentlessly seeking the good,
the better, the best for others, and trying to achieve that, come what may.

Paul describes love as the fulfilling of the law.
If we truly love, then we will do all that God asks of us, recognising that love is the embodiment of the life that God wants for all creation.
Our love for each other flows from a deep well of faith, through which we make real God's desire for our lives.
Our loving others is not a recompense for the way God loves us (we're not paying off a debt of love to HIM!) , but it IS our loving response to that love.

God's love is truly unconditional – no matter how patchy or inadequate our response!
There is nothing in the world that we can do to make God love us more or less...and nothing can separate us from that love...
But to truly recognise this is to find ourselves called to love in return.
Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all”......
God's love for me stirs up my love for God and that stirs up my love for all people....
a virtuous circle that can, quite simply, transform the world.

If that all sounds rather comfortable – believe me it shouldn't.
This is nothing to do with loitering among like minded people, lost in mutual admiration.
It's all to do with grasping the nettle of loving the unlovely and unloveable....so that they too might become lovely...and it's urgent.
This passage is, literally, a wake up call!
The night is far gone and the day is near...so we must be ready.

The life we live in Christ is not of this world...
We are called to be radically different, to live the way of light even though it is still dark outside.
It won't be easy but as children of the day we are to get on with the task of radical love here and now, to live into eternity in the every day.

So - we believe that salvation is within reach – nearer now than ever before...
We CAN make poverty history, end war, cure HIV/AIDS...Not “one of these days” but in our time, through our efforts...

We believe, too, in living honourably...not choosing to invest all our energies in the next feel-good treat, nor in fussing, fighting and jealousy but investing, instead, in those things of lasting value...
And we can manage this radical transformation, live out this way of love, only because we clothe ourselves in Christ...covering the naked inadequacy of our human wills, our clamouring egos, with that overwhelming love that can sweep us off our feet and take us to places that we never imagined...
Because, of course, that is what being a CHRISTIAN means.
We are to be little Christs, our lives modelled on his, our failures transformed by his victory, our weakness perfected by his strength.

And, clothed in Christ, we can learn his way of love...and recognise that we owe our debt of love to each and every human being...whether we like them or not.

1 comment:

Martyn - Being Free said...

brilliant post!! thank you!