I am struggling today with what it means to love. I am fortunate to have people in my life who struggle with the same thing. When I worshiped with the Quakers, this was always a painful theme because Quakers are also involved with peace and justice activity which constantly puts them into the world of people suffering from hatred in its many forms. How does one love an enemy? Yet this is what Jesus called us to.
At times like this, I bring to mind the heroes who have helped shape my philosophy of life: Mahatma Gandhi, Quaker Tom Fox, and Nelson Mandela, to name three. Each of these men struggled with this question: How do I love the enemy even as they continue to torture me or those I love? Jesus struggled with the same issue. We have a record of his last words, words of a man who never chose hate over love.
First he chose the love of self as he stood against Satan’s attack’s on his person. I believe it was his survival of this attack that prepared him for what was to come. Then he chose love of others as he went about preaching the Kingdom of God to his own people and, more important, living so people could see what it means to love with the very love of God dwelling inside. He had started his mission with good intentions, I am sure. Little did he know, until later in his mission, that his vision was a confrontation to the traditionalists. I am sure he thought, “Why don’t they understand me? This message is so simple, so pure, so full of love.”
In the garden of Gethsemane, he begged God to take away the suffering, to make everything alright again. It was love that made him finally say, “Not my will but yours.” God’s will was what he had committed to long ago. He would stay in that will to the end, no matter what.
When the temple guards came to arrest him, one of the disciples tried to defend him, drawing his sword and attacking one of the men. “Not this,” Jesus told him. To go to battle against the enemy with violence would have destroyed everything he had worked for. Love. Only love. Who can imagine such a commitment?
Then on the cross, when he was in the midst of the pain inflicted upon him, the Spirit, alive in him, was able to find a space to be released. Forgiveness, not based on worthiness of the attackers, but on the love that God has for all of his creatures. In the end, he let go and his Spirit left his body behind. The pain finally ended.
This is a better Good Friday writing than one written in the middle of the Easter season. But this is what is on my heart today. From the brief list of heroes I listed above, Tom Fox’s experience is closest to what I believe Jesus experienced. As a Quaker, he believed that there is “that of God” in everyone, EVERYONE! Throughout his time of incarceration and torture at the hands of Iraqi terrorists, he questioned what this kind of love can mean. In Tom Fox Was My Friend. Yours, Too, we read his journals. He held onto love until the end.