© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved
Sheep, shepherds, owners, hired hands,
wolves, authority, life, flock, fold, pen,
murder death, sacrifice —
the many diverse images in this text
that are supposed to tell us about love.
The whole accumulation of metaphors
is meant to explain part of what
God through Jesus has for us.
Yet, I find something missing.
I think the problem here,
as well as the problem with most of God-writing,
is its lack of actual, honest emotion
and its fixation with concepts.
John is supposed to be the most emotional
of all the Gospel texts,
and yet, even at its most sacrificial,
it still comes off as a little bloodless—
a watered-down ember
of what there is to actually tell.
But, you know, it is always like this
when we try to explain love in words.
The word love is a metaphor for an action,
a state of existence,
a way of being;
the word is a verb not a noun,
it is a symbolic expression for
a feeling, an emotion, a desire;
a zero score in tennis,
an over fondness for fondness,
a bad trick of the heart:
all of these things,
but it is also an implicit comparison
for the being we think of
when we think of God.
So we get a whole set of writings that express love
in ancient, near-eastern expressions of violence,
acted out on altars and through sacrifice,
death, and resurrection—
this is not even how we think
in our own First World time and place.
In searching for some new,
or at least workable, God-writing
for how we can understand
God’s love through the life and death of Jesus,
I am again struck by Jesus’ actions.
He walked, worked,
ate with those who were lesser
in the eyes of the establishment—
this made him suspect.
He did his godly work
on days when he shouldn’t do anything—
this made him an outlaw.
He challenged the traditions,
and religious beliefs—
this got him killed.
But, and here it is,
he did all this
because he was motivated by the love
he felt for the downtrodden
and the compassion he had
for those who are suffering.
What Jesus did in and with his life
was/is an example of forgiveness and mercy.
God-writing and its attendant metaphors
in our own time
must be mandated to eschew notions
of temple sacrifice and murder
and to focus on the gifts of grace
and tenderness of heart,
we find in the consequences of Jesus’ living —
it’s about love…