Tuesday, interviewed during the program 1A on NPR, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was asked to define love. “Is there a Biblical definition that you go to?” the interviewer asked. “Yes,” said Bishop Curry. “The paradigm for what being loving is for Christians is Jesus of Nazareth going to the cross. His giving up his life was an act of selfless, sacrificial love.” And he goes on to explain that this is not about the appeasement of an angry deity but is rather Jesus saying, “Look, I’ve got to show you what love looks like.” This is what it looks like.
Jesus commands us, “Love God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength; and love your neighbor as yourself.” Selfless, sacrificial love is giving up our lives for our neighbors. It’s not about dramatic, isolated acts, though those can sometimes occur. It’s about a focus that guides all our decisions, every single one of them. It’s the true north on our moral compass. We have to look at everything we do in the context of the love that Jesus modeled for us. All our actions, decisions and discerning need to be informed by this love.
This leads me to a new understanding of today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke. Jesus instructs his followers, “strive to enter through the narrow door.” We are asked to hone down our focus and pare away the things that are not important. What is life really about, anyway? What will fill us with joy, make us whole, and bring us peace? What is enough? In what direction ought we to look in order to find true fulfillment?
All our fears, all our shame, all our competitive striving, all our desire for fame, wealth, and security have their real satisfaction in the sacrificial, selfless love shown to us by Jesus going to the cross. That narrow door will bring us into whole and holy relationship with one another and with God. It is when we are focused on this love that we know and are known by Christ. In selfless, sacrificial love we become who we are meant to be.
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and writer living in Fort Collins, Colorado. For more information and to see some of her images, visit everydaymysteries.com.