‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another. --John 15:12-17
This was today's gospel and in a word: Wow!
I have had a few days to contemplate what's in this particular passage because I got it first on Friday at noon as part of the eucharistic service at St. John's. And, given the state of mind I was in and particularly what I was imploring from my heart in seeking guidance from God, I found myself back in that position of being pinged in the forehead by these words. Because in these words, I am hearing that I'm no longer an "acquaintance", I am now a "friend". And I am not a friend because I choose to be a friend, but because Jesus picked me as a friend. And Jesus didn't pick me as a friend to make me feel good; I'm picked as a friend because I am to go forth into 'the world' and act out of love. And when I act out of love, love spreads out beyond my being. And if I'm not the only one doing this, but all who have heard this passage actually do this... then think of how much love could be in the world?
OK... this sounds like fluffy bunnies and rainbows. And I know it's not like that. Because friendship with Jesus, friendship with God, comes at an expense when you're living in "the world". I experience it regularly in my life. As someone who is queer, many of my friends in "the world" could give a damn about God or Jesus. In fact, some are openly hostile, and take swipes at Christianity. For many, I assume, it is a reaction to what they have suffered at the hands of 'christians' (yes, my use of little 'c' is intentional). Their experience of 'christianity' is one of being ostracized, criticized, marginalized, and demonized. I have certainly felt this same exclusion, so I understand it. And I continue to try to live and act out of a love that is more in keeping with the love that I know comes from God, a love that knows no boundaries, or barriers, and will overcome all things that kill the soul. I keep presenting, through action more than words, that not everyone who believes in God and attends church is "like that".
I don't know how well this is working. I don't know if my worldly friends get it. Sometimes I think, they don't understand me at all. Sometimes I feel that they see me as a pod person, and that some alien has body-snatched Susan and replaced her with some strange and changed Susan that doesn't laugh at all their put downs of 'christians'. Don't get me wrong; I make snide comments about "holier than thou" types. But I am much more aware that they are NOT the majority, nor are they representing Christ in a way that I recognize as "Christian" (use of capitalization is intentional).
My friends are right. I have changed. But the change that I feel is in me isn't a bad one, nor is it one that would lead me into "a way" of condemning others. On the contrary, I wish that more people could experience what it's like to be loved so liberally and completely. I wish that more people would hear that message, take it deep into their beings, and then let that love flow out through their fingertips, their eyes, and their mouths. It is then that I think we'd really see that earth is... can... and will always be like heaven.
I've been in hell. I prefer heaven. The view is better.