"After we fall in love with Jesus …"
How’s that for an opening phrase? Say it out loud. You might want to check your pulse. Are you feeling love, fear, or skepticism?
You may already have a love affair with Jesus. You’ve felt his love, and you’ve returned it. Now you want to do what’s next. You can say, “After I fell in love with Jesus,” and complete the sentence.
However, fear of those words explains that you haven’t felt Jesus’ love yet. Such a reality scares the beJesus out of you to think about it.
If that phrase makes you skeptical, falling in love with Jesus is not logical. You can’t imagine submitting to loving a God who’s become a man. It’s an impossibility. Just putting the idea into your head might even make you angry.
Can you be Catholic or Christian and be afraid of Jesus; or skeptical that our faith insists upon the divinity of Jesus?
Let’s ask it another way. Are believers in love with Jesus never doubtful and consistently onboard? Not too many. Maybe we are on board with Jesus but not in love with him. Do Catholics — indeed do Christians of any faith expression — sign on to faith only because they have “fallen in love” with Jesus?
I’m hoping we do, but I know better. Any love relationship involves a lengthy process — courting, arguing, acceptance, and proven trust. We can understand the idea of love of/for/by/with Jesus, but maybe only intellectually. We envision a partnership at one end of the spectrum, and we see Jesus as our hero at the other end. That’s OK. I’m not making fun of it. However, partner and hero do not mean we’re having a love affair with Jesus.
Jesus is just one of the three persons of God. Maybe our loving him is not that important to a healthy faith. I doubt that’s true.
Our relationship to the Father can be complicated, but worshipping God the Father comes more naturally than loving God the brother/King/savior/teacher. The Father God meets us from an authority position — ineffable, solid, merciful, and firmly placed above us. We want the Father to love us. We’re pretty sure, though, he’s got more reasons to fret about us than love us.
Many non-Christian faith followers concentrate wholly on the Father. Nothing wrong with that. God is who God is. Christians, however, are Trinitarians. It’s the Bible’s fault. Christians need Christ, don’t they? An authoritarian God as your only personality of the divine can result in a distant God, one almost uninterested in individual lives. The Father we believers know is not distant, though. Jesus draws us to the Father, assuring us he is not remote.
The Holy Spirit can be limited similarly to how we limit the Father. Spirit means ethereal, invisible, and reachable only in the spiritual realm. I believe most non-Father and non-Jesus religions like God to be mysterious and hidden. Spirit-focused faiths purposely separate the spiritual realm from ours.
An exclusive vision of God as only Spirit allows us a haven. He guides us with kindness, truths that salve wounds. Such a Holy Spirit God is with us at every moment, but as a patient, wise influence. He’s not pushy. Centering on God as Holy Spirit will limit the divine, resulting in a calm, rather dull protective caretaker. That might seem enough, but is it? A wispy, invisible God doesn’t invade our lives. He only comes around when we let him in. Is that the God we know?
The ethereal God isn’t particularly hands-on. He’s lovely, but not someone we’d love. Jesus describes the Holy Spirit in concrete hands-on terms, though. Jesus makes the Holy Spirit essential, a fountain of love.
The Father without the Spirit, and the other way around, gives us a concise, uncomplicated God. Together, Father and Spirit make for an orderly divinity — wise, perfect, and deserving of worship. They sound more suitable as a duality. Isn’t that enough? Do we need Jesus?
It’s the Jesus fellow who’s the problem for everybody. He’s not distant. He’s not invisible, and no matter what you think, he’s not meek. To believe in Jesus as God and follow him means being his witness in the face of a skeptical, cruel world. Jesus doesn’t satisfy us like the Father and Holy Spirit seem to do. Jesus is dangerous. He makes the Father present and the Holy Spirit alive.
While the distant Father and the hidden Holy Spirit merely urge that we live a moral, ethical life, Jesus messes with us at every level. He upends our politics, ideologies, sexuality, money, career paths, and everything in our daily life. On top of all the challenges, Jesus insists upon total commitment. Anyone other than Jesus means idol worship. Jesus insists that we don’t just focus on him. We have to forgo everything for him. He tests us, makes life challenging.
Jesus is what people call a “hard” God. Blunt, self-sacrificing, courageous, and an evidence-based phenom. If you look closely, you have to admit that Jesus not only exists. He’s the real deal. Jesus goes the extra steps of piling up historical data, miraculous confirmations, and beyond-the-grave proof.
Unlike any other God, Jesus wants us to be like him. While the Father calls for worship and the Holy Spirit urges us to be holy, Jesus wants us to transform into gods. Each of us is a different, necessary part of his “body.” That’s been Jesus’ plan all along.
Am I saying we’re more likely to turn to the Father and the Holy Spirit in our God relationships? You might imagine I’m saying it’s easier to put the authority figure and the spiritual comforter into our Sunday boxes and charitable trusts. I can’t be saying that they’re not so “in-your-face-amazing” as Jesus. Unfortunately, I am saying that.
Jesus wants us to love him over everyone and everything else. He puts the Father on a pedestal that even he won’t claim for himself. He asks us to let the Holy Spirit into our hearts and be loved. And for himself, Jesus asks us to eat his body and drink his blood to transform ourselves into love-based martyrs who’ll die for the least of us and give up everything for those who hate us. It’s an awful-sounding pitch.
His pitch involves us in the wildest triune love fest that’s ever been. Jesus is the protagonist. The Father proudly heralds Jesus’ exploits and divinity. The Holy Spirit whispers Jesus’ name to us until it hurts. Jesus praises the Father and exults the Holy Spirit. They’re unstoppable, unsurpassed, and unfailing.
And we are in the one who is true,
in his Son Jesus Christ.
He is the true God and eternal life.
(1 John: 5:20)
I pray you’ve had the experience of such a love. It begins with Jesus. John tells us that love of Jesus includes both the Father and the Advocate.
My children, … we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.
(1 John 2:1-2)
Believers, those of us committed to the “Way,” to the path of Christ-followers, are probably not entirely on board. It’s too much to expect of each other. It’s what Jesus expects of us, though.
But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him. This is the way we may know that we are in union with him: whoever claims to abide in him ought to live [just] as he lived.
(1 John 2:1-2)