No one knows when or where or even how she came by it. Only that at some time or another, Mother Theresa found this simple this poem about loving one another, which begins… “People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered - Love them anyway.” She enlarged it, nailed it to the wall in the lobby and raised it up for all to see as a reminder of how we are called to love one another through our imperfections.
She says about her calling, “I knew where I belonged, but I did not know how to get there."
People challenged her. People questioned her motives. People misunderstood and resisted. She says in her journals that she felt God’s presence in very real and powerful ways when getting the orphanage started, and as she faced resistance and difficulties it was as though God had abandoned her for a long times, her emptiness went on day after day for decades. And yet she persisted with grace, hope, faith and love – Anyway!
In time, others were drawn to the community, powerful adversaries became allies and millions found inspiration and God’s love became real. Why?! Because in a world of doubt, cynicism, consumerism, self-indulgence and scarcity; she nurtured the conditions where God’s hope filled, life affirming love could thrive – anyway! And this is the power of the paradoxical, transformational invitation and command that calls us to love one another as God in Christ loves us - to love beyond rationale, reason, or any possibility or sense of earthly reward.
Look, God is love and in the beginning God creates in and out of and for - Love. God gives of God’s self, uses God’s power and presence to hold back the forces of fear, interrupt emptiness, calm the chaos and make a place, space and time where love and life can thrive.
In a supreme act of Love, God creates us in God’s image, blesses us, challenges us, and shows us how to love. God humbly and vulnerably chooses to honor our ability to live our lives authentically, find our way, and make choices as best we are able in relationship with ourselves, others God and Creation.
When the story unfolds and fearful, unloving choices are made God chooses to remain – Anyway! Why? Theologian Paul Tillich puts it this way, God is Love and “Love is the moving power of life that leads everything toward union, communion and reunion.” Love is more than a feeling, more than a greeting card sentiment, and more than a romantic notion. To love as God loves and as Jesus loves is to move beyond wishy-washy words and prayers, or the temptation to remain safely silent amid unjust violence, unloving attitudes and behaviors that oppose, undermine and otherwise contain, control and limit love.
To love as God loves we are called to make space where love and authentic life can thrive, to lift up the down trodden, to seek forgiveness and use our presence to heal a world fragmented by fear.
Through messengers and dreams, prophets and poetry God reminds us of who God is, how God loves and of a way to remain open and listen deeply for God’s still voice calling us to return in love, to love and through love once more.
In the fullness of time, God’s love and invitation to reconciliation is embodied, made real in the person of Jesus. Jesus, who meets us where we are on the journey. Jesus, who casts out and removes the dust, dirt and disparaging inner demons that contain, control and distract us. Jesus, who opens our hearts and minds, ears and eyes that we might come to see what until now we could not see and listen to those who until now we would not hear. Jesus, who feeds the hungry, resurrects hope, interrupts cycles of fear, challenges unjust and unloving powers and uses his presence to vulnerably embody the ever present love of the living God.
Jesus, who gives us one commandment - to love: to Love God, neighbor and enemy; to love ourselves; and to Love one another as God and Jesus love; which is through invitation rather than coercion, hope rather than fear, and reconciliation rather than retribution.
Now, it is hard to imagine loving one another like God or Jesus or thinking about loving like Mother Theresa. However what I find utterly amazing is that around the time Mother Theresa was in the depths of her dark night of the soul, feeling alone, questioning God’s love and the love of others; a 19 year old college sophomore was struggling to encapsulate his ideas to provide insight and inspiration to students attending a High School leadership conference. Kent Keith says: "I saw a lot of idealistic young people go out into the world to do what they thought was right, and good, and true, only to come back a short time later, discouraged, or embittered, because they got negative feedback, or nobody appreciated them, or they failed to get the results they had hoped for."
Finding inspiration in Jesus’s command to love one another, Kent laid out what he calls the “10 Paradoxical Commandments” which begin: “People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered; love them anyway.” Imagine that! A college sophomore half a world away pens his thoughts, shares them freely and unknowingly provides spiritual guidance to the likes of Mother Theresa!
And this is the paradox of God’s promise and possibility: We are blessed in blessing others, liberated liberating others, experience grace and gratitude as we express grace and gratitude to God and others; and find love - true love - godly life affirming, life giving love - in loving others despite our circumstances, mess-ups, mistakes, and challenges; ANYWAY!
We do not need to try to be like Mother Theresa, try to solve world hunger or think that unless we can do something big it isn’t worth doing anything at all. Actually, the opposite is true. Loving as God love means being and bringing love and the light of Christ into the places, spaces and relationships where we already live. It means connecting with others, hearing their stories and using our presence in humble, loving, vulnerable and just ways to make our relationships, neighborhoods, communities and city a little more loving and a little more just for one another and especially those society treats as an unwelcomed, unwanted “other.”
What might the hurts and hopes, questions and challenges, prayers and passions that you hold in your heart lead to if we were to
lovingly explore how we might be and bring love to one another, our community and city, together?
In the coming weeks, we will explore this funny little thing called “Love,” and for the next five Wednesday evenings you are invited to begin exploring how we are called to be love made real in our community, city and world. And that is the point of loving God with all our hearts, which we hear in Deuteronomy, in Jesus’ charge to love one another even when it isn’t convenient or easy, and even the Paradoxical Commandments hanging in that tiny orphanage in an impoverished slum in Calcutta that include:
• The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
• Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
And of course
• People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
May God bless us on our journey. AMEN
Kent Keith: Anyway: The Paradoxical Commandments: Finding Personal Meaning in a Crazy World;
Mother Theresa: A Simple Path,
Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta,
Paul Tillich: Love, Power and Justice