Saturday, March 07, 2009

Still enjoying U2: real joy

Here's where we gotta be / Love and community / Laughter is eternity / If joy is real

- Bono, "Get On Your Boots" from No line on the horizon

Love and community are the great marks of Christian discipleship. "By this, shall everyone know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13.35)

This is hard. This is where we have got to be, but find ourselves continually slipping away from. Community takes time, commitment, forbearance, repeated attempts at communication, and forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness. For many people, such a message seems hopelessly idealistic. They have been hurt too many times, misunderstood, ignored, abused or rejected by the very community that is meant to be the place where we learn love. Are love and community even possible?

Here's where we gotta be / Love and community / Laughter is eternity / If joy is real. And yet the Christian message is, in the end, a message of joy and of reality. It claims that being touch with reality is to be in touch with the deepest of joys, that existence is not ultimately tragic, that pain is not the final word.

Of course, being in touch with reality now also means mourning and weeping. Jesus said, "Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh." (Luke 6.21). Life in a broken world yearning for God's healing breath will remain a life of groaning. But such sadness is due to the depth of love that God leads us into. It is love that leaves a mark, that opens us to the wounds that hurt so much. But love is also the only path to laughter and joy. And the good news is that God promises to comfort those who mourn, to turn weeping into laughter. It is God's redeeming love which means that weeping may linger for the night, / but joy comes with the morning.

And this hope - that the story of the world will, in the end, be a comedy rather than a tragedy - this hope is what makes possible a commitment now to "love and community". If our love springs from desperation then sooner or later, faced with difficulty, it will wither and die, or at least retreat to a safe distance. Love must be sustained by hope and faith. But just like love, faith and hope cannot sustain themselves, or be merely wishful thinking in the face of desperate need. Only love can sustain faith and hope, not our love, but the fact that we are first loved. We do not yet know how loved we are. We do not know how beautiful we are. We do not know how beautiful we will be.
Image by CAC.