Forgetfulness of Life

Light of Christ - 2The Pharisees of the New Testament believed that strictly following the purification laws of Judaism paved the way for the messiah. This meant only certain foods could be consumed, they washed before going into the temple or other place of worship, and above all they could not associate or engage with people who were deemed impure—gentiles, lepers, and the maimed or lame. The Mosaic Law was supreme and there was no place for unconditional love.

Jesus, however, taught a new commandment and a better way. We do not prepare for the rule of God by strict adherence to rules and polity. We prepare for the rule of God through unconditional love. Yes, Jesus does call repentance—that is, turn away from the things of life that separate people from God—but he maintained that rules, laws, injunctions, and any other sort of human-made conditions other than unconditional love will not bring the rule of God into fruition. Acting on the positive message of Jesus Christ to love unconditionally and to repent for failure to love, and understanding unconditional love to be  as necessary as breathing and eating, is the Christian imperative.

Love is a complex emotion. I know from my own experience as a parent that I can never give up loving no matter how demanding that love can be. For example, I may not like my siblings from time-to-time, but I can never stop loving them. Love sees the humanity in others, love sees everyone has right to self-dignity, and love cares about the living and remembers those who came before.

Love was the focus of my childhood home. We were awakened almost every day with cheerful words, such as, “Rise and shine.” We learned through my mother’s cheeriness, steadily maintained throughout the war years, sadness and cross words

Filial love

Filial love

are prevented. When joy is the beginning of the day unhappiness cannot prevail. Cheer, joy, happiness all emanate from love.

I feel strongly about all of this because in my careers I have seen the frailty of life.  We never know what will bring us to the end. We never know when the end for us will be. And for those reasons we tend to live mostly in the forgetfulness of life; that is, as each day passes we do not think about the end of love and life. Because of our forgetfulness of life, we easily postpone the things that truly matter. For example, husbands and wives place most of their life’s energy into their work outside the home. However, I believe husbands and wives live a fruitful life by placing love of their union and love of their family ahead of all other worldly loves.

Everything else seems to have a priority. Work and career are important. Nonetheless, we are not mindful of life. The words and actions that truly matter—saying, “I love you” to a spouse, to children—are often falsely described as givens—words that do not need to be expressed. But I have seen the regret many have over the fact the words “I love you” went unsaid or to remember that love is a verb. Love is not a given.

Jesus was mindful of life. He tells his disciples that he was going away. He had a discourse with a follower in which he said that his life on earth was coming to an end. Then, Jesus counsels, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”[1] We are all going away at some time. I hope not right away or even in the near future, but we must be like Jesus and recognize that we are not going to be here for ever. We can be like Jesus by saying, “And now I have told you this before it occurs…”[2] Jesus tells his disciple that he is going away so that when he does, the disciple may believe in the mindfulness of life.

Failure to address the primary fact of life head-on opens people to evil. The fact is there is an end, but most will do anything to prevent “going away.” In C. S. Lewis’ Screw Tape Letters Satan laughs at humanity’s gullibility and waits for it to deny mortality and God’s grace. Because most think they will live forever, unconditional love, agape, is put aside, postponed for another moment, hour, or day.

In the love Jesus commands his disciples to exercise, peace is possible even when the world about us is at war. It is this love and peace that turns Satan back. It is a love and peace so profound neither can be fully described in human words. It is a peace of mind that prevails regardless of the conditions of life. It is the peace my mother created by her loving words, “rise and shine.”

In unconditional love Christians do not turn their backs on the world, instead they live in it. Because Christians live in the world they must be concerned for it. Nevertheless, the love and peace Jesus taught prevents panic and stampede into imprudent actions out of fear. The love and peace of Jesus helps us have self control (one of the fruits of the Spirit), intellectual honesty, and an independent mind—always remembering Christians are the Body of Christ, and must continually strive to behave in that reality. As God’s children, the love and peace beyond understanding opens a life of freedom—true and perfect liberty. In God’s love humanity has the potential to be liberated to soar beyond mere ideologies.

[1] John 14:28.

[2] John 14:29a.

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