Over 2,000 years ago, the apostle Paul wrote in Corinthians, “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.” (1 Corinthians, 1:22) A beautiful line in which we see a mirror of ourselves.
We often do demand of faith miraculous signs, the “hallelujah” moment of glorious insight and conversion. At other times we yearn for the deep wisdom of faith in which all fears and doubts are allayed with a thunder-clap of certitude. But that is not Christianity.
What is it then?
Christianity is the drawing alongside of suffering with the transformative force of self-sacrificing love … a preaching then of “Christ crucified.” It understands that “Liking (in the Facebook sense) is for Cowards. Go for What Hurts.” And what hurts is learning to love in a specific way. As Jonathan Franzen recently wrote in a Op-Ed piece for the New York Times …
Love is about bottomless empathy, born out of the heart’s revelation that another person is every bit as real as you are. And this is why love, as I understand it, is always specific. Trying to love all of humanity may be a worthy endeavor, but, in a funny way, it keeps the focus on the self, on the self’s own moral or spiritual well-being. Whereas, to love a specific person, and to identify with his or her struggles and joys as if they were your own, you have to surrender some of your self….
When you stay in your room and rage or sneer or shrug your shoulders, as I did for many years, the world and its problems are impossibly daunting. But when you go out and put yourself in real relation to real people, or even just real animals, there’s a very real danger that you might love some of them.
Welcome to what hurts! Welcome to what serves. Welcome to what saves.