Our own Don Merritt, The Life Project, is doing a lovely walk through Matthew. Right now he is in Chapter 22 with the religious leaders of the Chosen People plotting the downfall of their own Son Of God.
And today the verses I have in Mark are these:
Jesus entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. Mark 3:1-6
And as He and I were casting around these words (at a very early hour on a frosty dark night), He offered this thought:
“Why is love never enough, because it is everything and always?”
And off we went – He and I hither and thither …
Because we seem to have this thing about “rules.” How love is not enough without rules. That “dog eat dog” means those with power will take from those without. That those who “live by the sword” will destroy those who don’t. That although I am a reasonable chap, there are those who are not – and I need protecting from those who would do me harm – so here are the rules – and here are the enforcers – and these are the consequences.
And then (oddly) even though I am the reasonable chap for whom the rules were created – they suppress me as well as protect me. They fence me in as well as “leave me free”. The inhibit what I inhabit – they infest my very vest – they squeeze out love with an ever-so-polite-insistence. And we all concur. We all allow. All in the name of “fear” (or is that “love”?).
“But they were silent.”
When I love the rules that I have created more than I love “love” – what do we call that? And when the rules that keep me safe are the same rules that hang me on a cross – what do we call that? Or when we are asked if we believe in love or rules – what will we answer? Or will we also choose to be silent?
Because when I love rules more than my fellow man – do I call that fear – or love? And when I love me more than you – when I love what I have more than what you ask – when I love my bubble more than I love your adventure – when I love my inertia so much that I will destroy whomsoever invites me to journey … is that fear or is that love? And why do we call that “fear” so often and use fear as the “why” for rules. Why do we call that “personal safety” and quote “the rules” to justify pushing others away?
“Why is love never enough, when it is everything, and always?”
Why do we name (conditional) love “fear” instead? Why do we use (conditional) “love” as the reason for rules? Why can we not see that love is indeed the answer – even when we choose to call it fear?
(Jesus entered. And they watched in silence and hope. They watched in the hope that their love of their power and their lifestyle – their “rules to protect the downtrodden” – their “conditional love” – could be used to destroy Unconditional Love.)
This morning God Soft Hands Jesus has a question for me: What you have called fear all your life … is that not simply “conditional love”?
Because is not conditional love the desire to destroy – so that I need not change? For me to not empower others – for me to not liberate others – for me to not free another (too much)? And isn’t conditional love not simply me keeping hold of what I have – and what I deserve – and what I am worth – and what I need to preserve my self-image (which must exclude you – unless you agree with me)?
And isn’t that (conditional) love rather than “fear”? A “love” that loves me – that “loves” you to change rather than me – that “loves” you less than me?
Is what I have always thought of as “Love v Fear” … is that not “conditional v unconditional” – and has fear always been the big CON? Have I missed the subtlety in front of my very nose? That fear is not fear – that fear is simply conditional love disguised as “Love” (which needs rules to protect me from you and you from me).
“Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?”
That isn’t a question for the Pharisees. That is a question for me and you.
Do we prefer to make love an insidious CON – to call it fear – to justify “the law” – all the rules “the law” needs – rules that disguise – that sanitise this “con trick” …
This “con(ditional love) trick” we make into (good and wholesome) “fear” (which is never my fault – obviously).