Mark Hart

Love Hurts

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'

‘Ìâ‰âÂÌâ‰Ûù '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 yourÌâåÊown heart, in prayer? Have you ever truly pictured Golgotha, where Christ wasÌâåÊexecuted for you?

Try to picture it now. When the earthquake subsided and the darkness lifted thatÌâåÊFriday afternoon, it must have resembled something like a crime scene. Ask theÌâåÊHoly Spirit to guide your mind and heart now as you discern the site.

Survey the rocky ground. Feel the stones crushing one another and movingÌâåÊbeneath your feet. Hear the eerie wind whistle through the valley below mufflingÌâåÊthe sobbing of your Mother. See the blood stained rocks and cloths that surroundÌâåÊthe site. Notice the indifference of the guards on duty. Hear the mockery andÌâåÊgossip of the remaining onlookers. Ask yourself why anyone would performÌâåÊsuch an unspeakable act upon another human being, much less allow such an actÌâåÊwhen he had the power to stop it instantly.

Now, look forward to where the wood enters the stony ground. Let your eyesÌâåÊslowly track up the blood-stained wood. See the spike driven through the feet.ÌâåÊWitness the flesh hanging from the bones like ribbons. Look at the nails in HisÌâåÊhands, the hands that washed feet and broke the bread. Look upon your Savior,ÌâåÊagain, for the first time.

On Good Friday, love conquered the great divide between God and man andÌâåÊbetween God's children.

Man relates to others, to one another, in the same way in which God relatesÌâåÊto man’Ìâ‰âÂÌâ_through love. Mankind comes together in times of suffering but,ÌâåÊultimately, what brings people together, even more than mutual suffering, isÌâåÊsacrificial love. Love conquers the greatest divides of hatred, racism, greed, lust,ÌâåÊsexism, etc., but it doesn't stop there ‘Ìâ‰âÂÌâ‰Ûù love conquers sin and love destroysÌâåÊdeath. That is how Christ defeated Satan, not merely with the blood of sacrifice,ÌâåÊbut with the blood, sweat and tears of love.

How can such a gruesome sight simultaneously be so beautiful? The answer isÌâåÊthis: love. It was because of the love involved.

Love Requires Bodily Sacrifice

Love is the answer. I don't mean thatÌâåÊfiguratively, but literally. To almost every question asked, the answer willÌâåÊbe 'love' because, to Paul, love was the answer to every question (re-read 1ÌâåÊCorinthians 13).

When St. Paul envisioned the cross of Christ, he saw in Jesus what our HeavenlyÌâåÊFather sees’Ìâ‰âÂÌâ_perfect love. St. Paul must have had the crucifix engrained in hisÌâåÊmind and emblazoned on his heart when he penned the following words to theÌâåÊRomans:

'I appeal to you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to presentÌâåÊyour bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is yourÌâåÊspiritual worship (Romans 12:1).'

Offering our bodies as a sacrifice can be looked at in two ways. The firstÌâåÊay involves the 'do not's,' as in do not have premarital sex, do not look atÌâåÊpornography, do not use profanity, do not be lustful, do not abuse your bodiesÌâåÊwith drugs or alcohol. These are obvious sins and St. Paul definitely wouldÌâåÊhave included all of them (and many more) in what we ought to sacrifice. TrueÌâåÊsacrifice like the kind mentioned in this verse, however, goes even deeper intoÌâåÊthe 'do's,' as well, as in what Christians should do with their bodies. We shouldÌâåÊpray, serve others, work for justice, remain pure, affirm others, live the virtues,ÌâåÊetc. This verse is simultaneously telling us to 'put to death' the deeds of theÌâåÊflesh (Romans 8:13) and to be righteous (Romans 6:13).

St. Paul is telling us to be countercultural. Most in the world put themselvesÌâåÊfirst. He is calling us to change our attitudes and free our minds with the GospelÌâåÊmessage, to reject worldliness and selfishness.

'Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal ofÌâåÊyour mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good andÌâåÊacceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).'

St. Paul warns us about people who twist the truth (Romans 1:18-32, 2 TimothyÌâåÊ4:1-6). Modern 'wannabe' philosophers claim to have truth but offer little moreÌâåÊthan self. God's will must guide us in all circumstances, otherwise it is 'my willÌâåÊbe done,' which was Adam's sin. Living like Christ, the new Adam, means weÌâåÊseek God's will and that is how we are transformed into God's image (RomansÌâåÊ8:29, 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 headÌâåÊwhich proclaimed His 'title.' Christ's identity upon that wood was made knownÌâåÊby the beautiful and mangled body that hung beneath the placard. Words didn'tÌâåÊproclaim the kingship of Jesus, the sacrifice of His body did. It's not the sign onÌâåÊthe parish you attend that makes you a Catholic. It's not the words on a t-shirt,ÌâåÊthe message on the bumper sticker, the Rosary around the rearview or the titleÌâåÊon 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 trueÌâåÊCatholic, a true Christian. St. Paul understood this fact and lived it out with theÌâåÊcore of his being. We can learn a lot from him.

That is what the body of Christ does’Ìâ‰âÂÌâ_it dies, out of love, in order to rise andÌâåÊbring life. Why did Christ die? The answer is this: love.

Taken from Sword of the Spirit: A Beginner's Guide to St. Paul

Mark Hart

About the Author

My childhood plan was to be a jedi. My teenage plan was to be on Saturday Night Live. God's plan was to have me in ministry. God won - and I'm glad He did.