Episode #14 — Love Hates: In today’s episode, I look at Mary’s song and an uncomfortable truth about who God is. Yes, God is love. But what God’s love looks like as it enters a world filled with injustice and abuse and oppression isn’t always what we expect. Love hates.
Mary bursts into song after Elizabeth affirms her pregnancy, but the song isn’t what I would expect. It isn’t about Jesus as a wise prophet or as a sacrificial love offering or a peaceful and humble servant. It’s about God’s justice, which involves overthrowing rulers and punishing the rich and scattering the proud. It seems violent and lopsided and out of keeping with the Jesus I know.
Some of Mary’s song (also known as the Magnificat) emerges out of her particular historical situation. She’s a Jewish peasant girl living under the rule of an oppressive regime. But Mary’s song taps into an uncomfortable truth about who God is, about who Jesus is. Yes, God is love. But what God’s love looks like as it enters a world filled with injustice and abuse and oppression isn’t always what we expect. Some of the many things Mary’s song shows us are that love waits, love hates, and love costs.
Love waits. Love is patient, writes the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13. God doesn’t rush in to change our circumstances when He is inviting a change of heart. Similarly, God doesn’t rush in to save the world or change our communities. Here we see that God’s salvation depends upon one girl saying yes.
God will wait and wait and wait for us to recognize ourselves as His beloved ones. God will wait and wait and wait for us to turn to Him, to turn away from the things in our lives that keep us from Him.
This doesn’t mean God’s love isn’t active. Rather, God’s love is patient in that He will offer it to us again and again, no matter how much we refuse it. In Advent, we are invited to join in God’s patient love by reaching out to those who have wounded us in the past, by giving ourselves to those who do not reciprocate, and by caring for those who have not cared for us. In Advent, we are called to remember that this is how God has loved us.
Love hates. I know it sounds contradictory, but God hates injustice. God hates the suffering experienced as a result of corruption and self-centeredness. God hates the deceptions that keep us from understanding His love for us. Here’s where the overthrow of oppressive regimes and honoring the poor and humble comes in.
In Advent, we are invited to cry out against injustice, to use whatever power we have—time, money, words, relationships—to protest the oppression of the most vulnerable among us.
In Advent, we are called to remember that this is how God has loved us.
Love costs. Every act of love is an act of self-sacrifice. I sacrifice my sleep for my kids when I get up in the night to soothe them after a bad dream. My husband sacrifices personal ambition when he comes home from work to eat dinner with the family instead of crossing off a few more items on the to do list. Women and men in the armed services sacrifice their bodies to defend our nation. An employer who loves his employees sacrifices a bigger paycheck in order to share the profits. Mary sacrifices her body, her reputation, in order to welcome Jesus.
In Advent, we are invited to recognize God’s sacrificial love for us even as we are called to love others with that same kind of sacrifice.
The holiday season offers plenty of opportunities to ignore pain through parties and money and happy photos on Facebook. But the promise of Christmas is that when we take the time to recognize the ugly parts of our souls and the ugly parts of the world around us, when we take the time to engage in the pain and respond to it, when we pay attention to the depth and width and breadth of God’s loving response to that ugliness and pain, it will transform us.
Love will make us into people who don’t need to ignore pain and suffering but instead can respond to it with healing and grace. Like the baby who came into the world over 2,000 years ago.
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