Today’s readings: Psalms 90; 149, Haggai 2:1-9, Revelation 3:1-6, Matthew 24:1-14
Not just a pop song cliche, it’s a truth which is unpleasant and unavoidable – unless we opt out of love altogether. Whether we cause the pain or feel it, every relationship is eventually tested. Marriages struggle. Children leave home. Children fail to leave home. Friends let us down. The songs are usually about romantic love, but it’s true even of the agape love practiced by followers of Christ.
We’ve all heard somebody say something like: “I just don’t want to be hurt” frequently followed by “again”. Maybe they were cheated on. Maybe they were taken advantage of. The reasons for hurt are endless but here’s the thing: we already hurt, because we are already broken people in a broken world. There is no “again;” there is only “still.”
The pain of love is different from the pain of brokenness. The pain of love is like a bone being set, a wound being drained, or the pain of pouring out our secrets to a therapist. It is a productive pain and if we choose to avoid it, healing eludes us.
When Christ asks us to love God and to love one another, he promises us a spiritual comfort but does not promise us a life free of pain or danger. To the contrary, he warns us our choice to follow him into a life of agape love will cause many to scorn us and possibly put us in harm’s way. That harm isn’t always physical. Sometimes it is an injury to the spirit that occurs precisely because we have chosen to help others. Loving leaves us vulnerable.
Like our bodies, our spirits have an instinct to recoil from that which hurts us. As the Great Physician, Jesus tells us the remedy often means taking a greater risk and putting ourselves in danger of more pain. Not to become victims or masochists, but to improve our spiritual health. Eventually love mends the breaks and wounds in our spirit, but we must take risks.
Love hurts. Not loving hurts more, because improperly set spiritual bones leave us as hobbled as physical ones.
Comfort: It may take a long time, but loving others heals our own brokenness.
Challenge: For an example of love that valued risk over comfort, read this perspective on Mary, the mother of Jesus.