If someone was to ask me to sum up the message of Jesus in a few words, I would probably quote the Beatles:
“All you need is love.”
Not just shallow, gooey, fluffy, romantic love.
The kind of love that sets people free.
Love that gives of itself endlessly and asks for nothing in return.
Love that fights tirelessly for the needs and rights of strangers.
Love that breaks down barriers, crosses borders, and shatters social constructs and expectations.
Love that sees the beauty in all life and seeks to honor, treasure, and nurture it.
Love that treats the outcasts of society as if they were worth more than all the diamonds, gold, and oil in the world combined.
Love that brings tangible hope to those who are suffering physical or emotional pain … those who are lonely, lost or terrified … those whose hearts ache with grief … those who long for deeper meaning and significance.
Love that points to a greater reality, a greater purpose, and a greater future for the whole of creation.
Love that never, ever, ever gives up.
That is the kind of love that brings transformation.
This is not a sideline to the main Gospel message in the Bible, an optional add-on that helps to make life more bearable but is ultimately pointless.
This is the point.
Over the centuries, we “Christians” have complicated and distorted this message. We have added conditions, built walls, piled on guilt. We have embarked upon great, well-meaning excursions in entirely the wrong direction, and fought battles in the name of Jesus without realizing that it is Jesus himself we are fighting.
In particular, we are still obsessed with the idea of “purity.” We have this deeply ingrained idea that our job is to be the Morality Police, to keep everyone in check and keep standards up. The church’s current preoccupation with sexuality makes this all too clear. Our job is not to make sure everyone meets all of our moral ideals. Our job is to love. That is what we should be known for.
This is far from a wishy-washy, watered-down, “easy” version of the Gospel. Love is as fierce as a mother defending her children in a war zone. It is as powerful as a tsunami and illuminates even the darkest, most hopeless places.
Love speaks out against the powers of this world that crush those on the underside. It cries out on behalf of those who have no voice. It swims against the tides of culture and refuses to participate in systems and structures that breed inequality and injustice.
Love is transforming this world.
One day love will win.
And in the meantime, Jesus tells us to get on with the dirty, dangerous work of loving against all odds.
There are many things we cannot understand and will never be able to fully explain. But just imagine what could happen if we “Christians” accepted this mystery, and channeled all the energy we spend arguing about moral issues into unconditionally, selflessly, and tirelessly loving our world. (Moral issues are important, but secondary. I suspect if love truly was our compass and our driving force, the moral issues would start to resolve themselves or at least pale into insignificance.)
Love. No ifs, no buts.
Profoundly simple, yet radically counter-cultural and earth-shattering.
I wonder if the Beatles knew how right they were.
About Emma Higgs
Emma Higgs lives with her husband and two toddlers in Plymouth, England. When she finds a minute, she blogs about progressive theology, Christianity & homosexuality, and mental health at www.emmahiggs.com. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.