True Love is the Answer
‘I was there when they crucified my Lord
I held the scabbard when the soldier drew his sword
I threw the dice when they pierced his side
But I’ve seen love conquer the great divide’
‘When Love Comes to Town’, U2 and B.B. King
Have you ever seen the crucifixion of your Savior? Not in a movie, but in your own heart, in prayer? Have you ever truly pictured Golgotha, where Christ was executed for you?
Try to picture it now.
When the earthquake subsided and the darkness lifted that Friday afternoon, it must have resembled something like a crime scene. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your mind and heart now as you discern the site.
Survey the rocky ground. Feel the stones crushing one another and moving beneath your feet. Hear the eerie wind whistle through the valley below muffling the sobbing of your Mother. See the blood stained rocks and cloths that surround the site. Notice the indifference of the guards on duty. Hear the mockery and gossip of the remaining onlookers. Ask yourself why anyone would perform such an unspeakable act upon another human being, much less allow such an act when he had the power to stop it instantly.
Now, look forward to where the wood enters the stony ground. Let your eyes slowly track up the blood-stained wood. See the spike driven through the feet. Witness the flesh hanging from the bones like ribbons. Look at the nails in His hands, the hands that washed feet and broke the bread. Look upon your Savior, again, for the first time.
On Good Friday, love conquered the great divide between God and man.
Man relates to others, to one another, in the same way in which God relates to man through love. Mankind comes together in times of suffering but, ultimately, what brings people together, even more than mutual suffering, is sacrificial love. Love conquers the greatest divides of hatred, racism, greed, lust, sexism, etc., but it doesn’t stop there… love conquers sin and love destroys death. That is how Christ defeated Satan, not merely with the blood of sacrifice, but with the blood, sweat, and tears of love.
How can such a gruesome sight simultaneously be so beautiful? The answer is this: love.
It was because of the love involved.
Love Requires Bodily Sacrifice
Love is the answer. I don’t mean that figuratively, but literally. To almost every question asked, the answer will be ‘love’ because, to Paul, love was the answer to every question (re-read 1 Corinthians 13).
When St. Paul envisioned the cross of Christ, he saw in Jesus what our Heavenly Father sees perfect love. St. Paul must have had the crucifix engrained in his mind and emblazoned on his heart when he penned the following words to the Romans:
‘I appeal to you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (Romans 12:1).’
Offering our bodies as a sacrifice can be looked at in two ways. The first involves the ‘do not’s,’ as in do not have premarital sex, do not look at pornography, do not use profanity, do not be lustful, do not abuse your bodies with drugs or alcohol. These are obvious sins and St. Paul definitely would have included all of them (and many more) in what we ought to sacrifice.
True sacrifice like the kind mentioned in this verse, however, goes even deeper into the ‘do’s,’ as well, as in what Christians should do with their bodies. We should pray, serve others, work for justice, remain pure, affirm others, live the virtues, etc. This verse is simultaneously telling us to ‘put to death’ the deeds of the flesh (Romans 8:13) and to be righteous (Romans 6:13).
St. Paul is telling us to be countercultural. Most in the world put themselves first. He is calling us to change our attitudes and free our minds with the Gospel message, to reject worldliness and selfishness.
‘Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).’
St. Paul warns us about people who twist the truth (Romans 1:18-32, 2 Timothy 4:1-6). Modern ‘wannabe’ philosophers claim to have truth but offer little more than self. God’s will must guide us in all circumstances, otherwise it is ‘my will be done,’ which was Adam’s sin. Living like Christ, the new Adam, means we seek God’s will and that is how we are transformed into God’s image (Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:28), how we become ‘good and acceptable and perfect.’
Christ’s identity and kingship were not made known by the sign above His head which proclaimed His ‘title.’ Christ’s identity upon that wood was made known by the beautiful and mangled body that hung beneath the placard. Words didn’t proclaim the kingship of Jesus, the sacrifice of His body did. It’s not the sign on the parish you attend that makes you a Catholic. It’s not the words on a t-shirt, the message on the bumper sticker, the Rosary around the rearview or the title on the parochial uniform that makes you a Catholic.
It’s what you do with your body (and what you don’t do) that makes you a true Catholic, a true Christian. St. Paul understood this fact and lived it out with the core of his being. We can learn a lot from him.
That is what the body of Christ does… it dies, out of love, in order to rise and bring life. Why did Christ die? The answer is this: love.
Read more by Mark Hart in his new book, Zealous: Following Jesus with Guidance from St. Paul.