How do you make someone love you, especially someone that you love very, very much? You can’t. All you can do is love them in a way that they can receive it, in a way that they need it most, and hope that they love you in return.
This is God’s dilemma.
The God of love created us and all things so that love could grow. In the community of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, each God-person already gave and received perfect love. The three-in-one God has no love deficiency. But by creating human beings who were free to either reject God or love him with all of their heart, soul, strength and mind, God made room for love to expand and multiply. The humans God created were not automatons programmed to mechanically do what God wanted. They were free beings created to make real choices with real consequences.
And that means that evil also exists in this world that God created. God didn’t create evil. Our first human parents chose it. By choosing to not love God, they invited evil to come in and rule over God’s once good creation. And all the people that God created for love were, from that point onward, now programmed for hatred and headed for eternal destruction.
So how do you love someone who hates you? You do what Jesus did.
Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) And so, Jesus laid down his life for the world in order to save us from destruction and free us from the grip of hatred and evil.
So why the blood and gore? Why all the injustice and suffering? Why all the hostility and hatred towards the only truly innocent human being who ever lived?
Because that is what it cost to set us free to love and to live.
As Jesus hung on that cross in our place, all evil in the world was judged and condemned, all sin debt was paid in full, and all hatred was poured out on Jesus. His suffering and death broke the power of evil, death and hatred, and made space once again for love to grow.
As the Holy Spirit plants a love virus in our hearts, our software is reprogrammed to love other people and love God. We don’t get it right all the time, but one day we will. Our hardware is failing, but one day Jesus will give us all new hardware that we never break down again. And in the meantime, starting at the cross and moving outward, as well as backward and forward through time, love grows.
In The Book of God: The Bible as a Novel, Walter Wangerin, Jr. describes the reason for a holy yearning in the eyes of Joseph of Arimathea as he held the brutalized, dead body of Jesus: “Joseph of Arimathea was holding his whole treasure in all the world – this world and the next one, too.”
This is love. Jesus is our treasure too. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
It’s Good Friday.