Yesterday I read this quote from Omar Khayyám:
So I be written in the Book of Love,One of my frustrations with Christian culture is its self-absorbed focus on getting to heaven.
I do not care about that Book above.
Erase my name or write it as you will,
So I be written in the Book of Love.
I suspect that quite a few Christians think I'm going to hell. Consider a Reformed believer. I don't believe in the doctrine of election. More, I think the doctrine is morally odious, a heresy, an offense against the honor of God. So, given my feelings about the doctrine of election, I figure it's highly unlikely that I'm one of the elect. And if I'm not one of the elect then I'm going to hell.
But maybe not, maybe God has elected me and I just don't know it. But even if I was one of the elect I'd return my ticket. I'd give up my seat on the lifeboat to save some other soul. Why? Because that is what Jesus would do. If the doctrine of election is true please assign me with the damned. As Jesus was. I'm not interested in being saved over the screams of my neighbors.
But I don't want to pick overmuch on the Reformed. Because I suspect they aren't the only Christians who think I'm going to hell. The list of offenses here could get very long. The number of ways you can be damned in contemporary Christianity is pretty large. There's lots of ways of going to hell. Believe wrong. Worship wrong. Vote wrong. Live wrong. Fellowship wrong.
Still, I'm just not that interested.
That is why I was drawn to the Khayyám quote. For my own part, I don't care about the Book above. Erase my name or write it as you will. I'm just not that interested.
But I am interested in love. This is what draws me to the Christian faith. The vision of love I find in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
Yesterday I talked about how suffering erodes my faith. In moments like those I ask myself, "What do I believe? Do I have any faith?" Truthfully, I'm not sure. But in one sense it doesn't matter. Faith has allowed me to move on to love. That is what remains.
This is the notion that Tomas Halik makes in his book Patience with God in his chapter discussing the life of St. Therese of Lisieux. At the end of her life Therese undergoes a dark night of the soul. And some have argued that she died without faith. But what Therese finds on the other side of faith is love. Love for God and love for humanity. Love comes to replace faith. Faith is the time of our infancy, our immaturity. Faith is meant to pass away, making way for the maturity and perfection of love. The goal is less about the Pearly Gates than having one's name written in the book of love.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.