Sunday, October 02, 2005
The Passion of the Christ
By Dr. Jennifer Morse
The Passion of the Christ presents a radically counter-cultural view of love. The Established Church of Hollywood and much of current American culture holds to the Romantic creed that love is all about feelings. I am in love, if I like the way I feel when I am with the other person. Those enjoyable feelings are usually some variation of lust, or self-aggrandizement. When the pleasantness or the intensity fades, I have fallen out of love.
By contrast, Jesus demonstrates a love that has nothing to do with feelings. The life of Jesus teaches that love is a decision. To love is to will and to do the good of another person. Jesus made a decision to love: to love His father, to love His immediate followers, and to love all of us. After seeing Gibson?s movie, no one could believe that Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified because He felt like it. But He did it anyway, trusting in the goodness of His father?s will.
When Mary, John and Mary Magdalene followed Jesus up the hill to Calvary, they probably didn?t like the way it felt. Their love for Jesus didn?t make them feel important or special on that particular Friday afternoon. But they followed Him anyway. They had already learned from Jesus that love is a good in itself.
In Gibson?s movie, everybody who acts on their feelings comes off looking like a loser. The unthinking mob demanded the death of Jesus. Pontius Pilate knowingly condemned an innocent man rather than risk his career. Peter acted on his fear, denied Jesus and ran away. Judas succumbed to despair and hung himself.
The Hollywood image of love has only to do with feelings, and with acting upon the passions. An entire agenda of sex, marriage and family, flows directly from this view of love. Love is nothing but a feeling.
But no one can sustain the intense euphoric feeling so common at the beginning of a relationship, and so commonly shown on the Big Screen. Marriage becomes nothing more than a temporary contract between people who ?love? each other, because ?love? is necessarily temporary.
Since children don?t always make us feel good, we certainly can?t be expected to take the demands of childrearing seriously. We come to demand sexual activity unhinged from childbearing, as a constitutional right. In that frame of mind, sex comes to have no social or moral significance. Sex is merely a recreational good.
Everyone wants love in their lives. But the more vigorously we pursue the counterfeit signs of love, the more frustrated we?re likely to become. We go through life feeling cheated, because we know in our deepest hearts, that we were made for love. We can?t get it by chasing our feelings, but we don?t know any other way. We convince ourselves we are entitled to have any kind of relationship with anyone, on any terms we choose, thinking that this time, perhaps, it will work. This is part of the impulse behind the demand for an unlimited right to divorce and remarriage, to cohabitation, and to same sex marriage.
When Jesus tells His followers, ?love one another as I have loved you,? he isn?t telling us to parrot His feelings. He is telling us to make a practice of pursuing the good of others. He is inviting us to be attentive enough to others that we can actually figure out what is good for them.
We have to be realistic about the limits of what we can actually do to be helpful to those we love. It means we sometimes have conflict with others, because we shouldn?t always give them what they are asking for. We can?t use other people as means to achieving our ends.
Committing ourselves to doing the good of another draws us out of our natural self-centeredness and opens for us the possibility of being engaged with others. Jesus invites us to fling ourselves into the adventure of lifelong love with our spouses and children.
His idea is for us to take up the cross and follow Him, as The Passion makes clear.
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