A staggering thought, however, is that such love should mark the way we live as social beings. Christians must love others as God has loved us. And this, it seems, is a command of screaming impracticality. — John Kavanaugh
What if “agape” (Love) is a gift? And what if as a gift it makes itself known and felt, it works its labors in spite of those possessed by it? The possibility absolutely scares me. Not because it my not be present in my life but because it might be.
John would write that God is Love (agape). Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. (1 Jn 4:16) Those who believe in Jesus the Messiah are in danger of loving God and loving God they will love the commandments and they will love the people, they will love truth. (1 Jn 5:1ff)
Far from the charming sentimentality that has gotten attached to 1 Corinthians 13, this agape, this love, is the stuff that martyrs are made of. It is the power of martyrs.
Peter Leithart recalls in a recent article (First Things) that Constantine received the bishops of the church, who only a few years before had been hounded by the Roman state, at his palace. One of them, Paphnutius, had lost an eye and a leg to torture. Constantine kissed the empty eye socket as a symbol of apology. His people had emptied it but they could never fill it again. Theirs was only the power of destruction. Martyrdom’s power is precisely there. A martyr’s suffering exposed a powerlessness in those who wanted to be seen as gods. They did not have creative powers, only destructive ones.
Leithart concludes his article with this thought to us today:
If the Church of the martyrs has one thing to teach us, it is this: The Church is most politically potent not when she has a place in the halls of power, but when she shares the testimony of Jesus regardless of the consequences.
Uncomfortable things must be spoken by the church, beginning with the assertion that Jesus is the Christ, the only son of God. After that confession, all sort of other things enter the conversation not the least of which being sin, for those who confess “Jesus is the Messiah,” love both neighbor and the the God of Abraham, and they cherish the ways of that God: the commandments.
Elijah and Elisha are revered prophets. We love them because they stick it to the bad boys and girls of the bible like Ahab and Jezebel. We love prophets. We love Isaiah and read him extensively so it would seem from the lectionary, and we rejoice in his promises.
But the words and deeds of the Elijahs of the world exposes things no one wants to have exposed. What Israelite in his right mind wants to be reminded of the acts of Elijah? No. Really. Think about it. He is a continuous judgement on the reign of Ahab and the Israel and Israel hated him.
It seems raising his name in Nazareth was not a popular thing. His actions told by Jesus drove home the stark fact that God could be merciful to anyone but owes no one anything.
Love keeps no records. Nazareth does. If it is important never to recall that God sent famine to chasten Israel ( 1 K 17) so that one can keep alive an idol of God that one can find time and energy to adore, then love is not in the picture though hypocrisy might be. Truth can never be at home there as the reaction to Jesus sayings about Elijah and Elisha prove. Love can receive chastening, pride and hypocrisy cannot.
When truth cannot be spoken, martyrs will be made.