Last night I celebrated my birthday with nine women friends – a day late because of the 14 inches of heavy wet snow that fell all day yesterday, the actual 60th anniversary of my birth. Three others had planned to join us but had calendar conflicts. It was such a gift to be celebrated and affirmed by one’s friends and to be shown so much untethered love.
When I closed my eyes to listen to the erhu music Melissa had selected to play for me, I had a new insight about the cross of Christ. I have always been in touch with the suffering of Christ fully human on the cross, but for the first time I had a sense of the intensity of the love that Christ fully divine harbors for humankind which I characterized as “the ecstasy of love” while sitting among my friends with my eyes closed. In the short span of that one musical interlude I thought further upon the ecstasy of love that Christ fully divine emanated to all of humankind upon the cross and came to understand, to see – really see – for the first time, how the ecstasy of love is sufficient to overcome the suffering of death upon the cross.
Thefreedictionary.com says that one expression of ecstasy is “the rapture associated with prophetic exaltation.” What could possibly be more prophetic than Christ dying on the cross to redeem humankind? What could possibly bring a feeling of rapture – of extreme joy – more than the knowledge that one is about to be reunited with God as Jesus the Christ sheds the human condition?
In the past, when studying the theology of the cross, I have tended to focus upon the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross. While I did understand that the sacrifice of God’s only son was made out of God’s infinite love for humankind, my error I now see is that I focused on the sacrifice and not on God’s love. It now dawns on me that the lesson I am supposed to learn is about love and not about sacrifice as an expression, or as the most important expression, of love.
The commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself,” not to “love your neighbor above yourself” or to “love your neighbor more than yourself.” In other words, God does not require sacrifice from us. What God requires from us is love. When I think about the parable of the workers in the field who were paid the same wage whether they worked one hour or all day, it reminds me that it is human nature to measure and compare, but it is not God’s way. God’s love is infinite and immeasurable. God’s requirement of us – we who are created in God’s image - is to love without measure, trusting God to equip us with the generosity of spirit to express boundless love for our fellows.
Matthew 18:3 says that unless we change and become like little children, we will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. We are called to unlearn the lessons of measuring and comparing – what we have vs. what others have, how much we are given vs. how much others are given, how hard we work vs. how hard others work, how much we suffer vs. how much others suffer. We are called to stop reciting those lists in our heads. We are called to remember how delightful it is to receive and give love – like little children receive and give love: just receiving and giving love from their innate spirits. God calls us back to our innate identities: beloved children of God created in God’s image.