Love Never Ends: A Meditation

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Love Never Ends: A Meditation
Brian Zahnd

Why is there something instead of nothing?
The only answer I can imagine is Genesis 1:1. In the beginning God…
But why would God say, “Let there be light” and initiate Creation?
The only answer I can imagine is God is love.

What is light? God’s love in the form of photons.
What is water? A liquid expression of God’s love.
What is a mountain? God’s love in granite, so much older than human sorrow.
What is a tree? God’s love growing up from the ground.
What is a bull moose? God’s love sporting spectacular antlers.
What is a whale? Fifty tons of God’s love swimming in the ocean.

As we learn to see Creation as goodness flowing from God’s own love—
We begin to see the sacredness of all things.
As Dylan and Dostoevsky say, in every grain of sand.
All of creation is a gift — a gift flowing from the self-giving love of God.

Why is there light and oceans and trees and moose and whales and every grain of sand?
Because God is love — love seeking expression in self-giving creativity.
Unless we understand this we’ll misunderstand everything and misspend our lives.
In our misunderstanding and misspent lives we harm Creation—
Including our sisters and brothers, all of whom bear the image of God.

Love never ends.
At the end of all things there is love. Love abides. Love endures.
When the last star burns out, God’s love will be there for whatever comes after.
In the end it all adds up to love. So when you are calculating the meaning of life—
If it doesn’t add up to love, recalculate, because you’ve made a serious mistake!

Existence only makes sense when seen through the lens of love.
At the beginning of time there is love.
At the bottom of the universe there is love.
It’s in God’s ocean of endless love that we live and move and have our being.

Admittedly freedom allows for other things too (from cancer cells to atomic bombs)—
But at the bottom of the universe it’s love all the way down.
Cancer cells and atomic bombs will not have the final say.
Love alone has the last word.

“Unless you love, your life will flash by.”
(Thank you, Terrence Malick.)
Love alone gives meaning to our fleeting fourscore sojourn.
Why? Because everything else returns to dust. It’s love alone that never ends.
It’s love alone that is greater than the grave. Death severs all save love.
We remain connected to our departed loved ones by the un-severable bond of love.

Love remembers.
God’s love is great enough to remember all and to re-member all.
If Creation is an explosion (or rapid expansion) of God’s love (and I believe it is)—
New Creation (or resurrection) is the triumph of God’s endless love over death.
This is the question: Which is endless, Love or Death? The answer is Love.

If God is love and if love never ends and if the meaning of being is love…
And if Jesus is the supreme incarnation of God’s eternal love…
Then that should tell us something about what it looks like to follow Jesus.

Following Jesus is a journey toward perfection in the love of God.
It’s a journey that will take us a lifetime, and perhaps longer.
But the trajectory is clear: We are always moving toward the way of love.

If what we’re doing, praying, preaching, saying, isn’t moving us toward love…
Then it’s not the true way of following the love of God who is Jesus Christ.
This needs to be said, because it is too easily forgotten.
Loveless orthodoxy is death.

We’ve all seen those who in the name of Jesus have perfected meanness.
The iconic and tragic-comic example would be the Westboro Baptist folk…
But there are plenty of other less egregious, but still tragic, examples.

The journey of faith almost always begins as somewhat elitist (I’m saved!)—
But it always move toward becoming egalitarian. (Peter learning Gentiles are accepted by God.)
Love triggers the divine and deep (but often repressed) instinct that all things belong.
(All God has created is good. Sin is the corruption, the hole, in the fabric of God’s goodness.)

You too belong. You too are accepted. I will make room for you.
Over time, as we are properly formed, love will elicit this kind of language.
Love is open. Love is expansive. There is a largeness to love.
Sin is mean, petty, and small.
The whole world of Hell in C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce was no bigger than a grain of sand.
Selah.

If Creation comes from the explosive expansion of God’s love—
Then I find it significant that we live in an ever expanding universe.
The universe is not shrinking, it’s not static, it’s expanding…at the speed of light!

God is love. God is light. God’s love is expanding at the speed of light.
And what is the wrath of God? The love of God wrongly received.
Either we go with the grain of love or we suffer the shards of self-inflicted harm.
(And that you “did it to yourself” by resisting God’s love makes it no less of a judgment.)

What about the borders of your love? Are they shrinking? Static? Expanding?
Who are you embracing in love. Fewer people? The same people? More people?
I’m not worried about having borders of love that are too broad.
Loving too many people will hardly be a crime at the judgment seat of Christ.

In my earliest days of following Jesus I had an air of triumphalism. (I’m on the winning team!)
But as I mature I find triumphalism shrinking and love expanding.
Today I find it much easier to love people who are very different from me.

I’ve learned to genuinely love people of other religions. (And still confess Jesus is Lord.)
Jews…Muslims…Hindus…Buddhists…Atheists.
I’m thinking of specific people…friends.
But will they be saved?!
That’s not my business. My business is to love and point to Jesus.
(I do believe that no one who loves the way of grace ever comes to a bad end.)

Back to the question about our borders of love…
Why would our borders of love shrink and not expand? Only one answer: Fear.
As I observe the world — politically, socially, economically, religiously…
I observe there really are only two forces that move people: Fear and Love.

So when you observe the events that make news (especially if there’s controversy)—
Ask this simple question: What’s at work here? Fear or Love?
Then ask yourself another question: What’s moving me? Fear or Love?
Finally, make the decision to move with love and refuse to respond to fear.
You can afford to make that risky move because…
God is love and love never ends.

BZ

The backing track for this blog post is California (There Is No End To Love) by U2.

  • Brian Daniel

    I’m ever inspired by the continual journey of grace and mercy that you are on. Thanks for the challenge today to love entirely.

  • Thank you, Brian. Blessings to you.

  • Brian Daniel

    Thanks Brian. I’ve been listening to “A Farewell to Mars” (currently on chapter 7) and seriously contemplating the discussion in regards to taking up your cross. It’s meaning is taking such a different level of awareness than what I’ve been exposed to in all the various churches we’ve been in not only since moving to MN but also my traveling life leading up to MO. I’m really trying to wrap my head around the empirical impact that statement has compared to all the things that I’ve tried to associate the cross with personally. Thanks for taking the risk to write this book. I hope that I can live out this call to love without limits and without imposing my perspective on people.

  • I will be pointing my readers to this excellent article. You have so wonderfully painted a picture of the foundational and enduring quality of love. I hope to meet you at the Simply Jesus Gathering next month. Blessings!

  • David Norling

    “Orthodoxy without love is dead” and theology without poetry is caricature. Keep waxing…

  • Gerald Lewis

    You help me Pastor. This is like one of the old prayers. Transformational

  • Herm

    Love truly does cast out all fear and at the same time allows us to feel deeper in all ways the painful woe for those and that we love; sibling, neighbor, enemy and creation.

    Thank you Pastor Zahnd! As I was savoring the sweet fruit from your cathartic offering of love I pictured a transforming of my life to date.

    My mother’s water broke and I was born into the carnal love of Man as my parents’ child. Fifty Earth years later my spirit broke and I was born into the eternal love of God as Their child.

    It happened this way: Until I was 17 I was subject to the authority of my parents as a child like I spoke. While 17 I saw the hand of God in action and as an adult of mankind I chose to seek the guidance of God’s hand. For 33 tumultuous and glorious years I was led by Their hand until all I thought I had achieved in the image of Man according to mankind’s values was gone. I thanked God for bringing me to where I could fully feel grief to value what I had lost that when as a little child of mankind I could not have endured. I opened my heart and mind to the Spirit of God full time because I had nothing to lose. Prior to then I had accepted counsel on my terms and shut God out when I thought I might be sinning. I found that my sin had purely been that I recognized God and still chose to separate from God momentarily to pursue by my own inadequate but adult of Man responsible thoughts and feelings. I, after that, found a peace and joy even greater than my naïve but truly pleasant peace and joy that I had enjoyed as a child of my loving carnal parents, when I was accepted as a little child of God at fifty. I have grown for 20 years now still as a little child realizing and growing every day in and by how much more I am loved and can now love in ways that as a child of Man I could not have endured.

    I do accept the truths derived from all sciences with the help of our Counselor and our Rabbi to help me be discerning in how I use such learning in my love for all created and infinite. Spirituality is outwardly and inwardly infinitely macrocosmic and microcosmic. I know that our creator God has a love so patient as to wait billions upon billions of years for the Earth to be just right to breathe Their Spirit into a carbon based species to reflect Their image bonded in love. That’s a love so vast that it requires an eternity to fully digest into my heart, soul, strength and mind. No longer in the image of God but bound in love as one heart and one mind with all of God.

    Thank you Brian for inspiring this picture from your heart and mind! Love you!

  • Herm

    And yet isn’t the goal of every Christian to imitate Christ, to be more the picture of Christ like? If we know the High Priest and Rabbi through the Advocate bound by love in our hearts and minds do we really need orthodoxy and/or theology?

  • Erik Stensland

    Brian, I’ve probably read this a dozen times now and keep coming back to it. Your conclusions are the same as mine, though you express it far more eloquently. Thank you for putting the internal groaning of my heart into words!

  • Thank you, Erik, your words mean a lot.

  • charlesburchfield

    short answer; no.

  • Jon

    I’m crying right now. Thank you for sharing this–it is beautiful.