[This is the twelfth in a series of sermons in interpreting America in the 21st century in light of the Book of Revelation. The series will continue, monthly for about two years.]
Shalom Mennonite Congregation—January 20, 2013—Revelation 15:1–16:21
We seem to get mixed messages about love. Jesus was asked to identify the greatest commandment—it’s the call to love, he said. Probably if we were asked what was the most important emphasis for Martin Luther King, we’d say it was love. He called one of his most famous books, Strength to Love.
And yet it also seems that love is kind of looked down upon. It certainly doesn’t seem to come up much when we talk about social policy and social problems, gun violence, economic inequality, terrorism, climate change. When we talk about social issues we tend to use “realistic” language—power, coercion, justifiable violence, finding a seat at the table, self-interest, just desserts.
Love may seem sentimental, naïve, emotional, soft. Nice for life on a personal level (perhaps), but not very central to negotiating social life, not very central to the work of social justice and social order.
I’ve read a couple of books that bear this out. Michael Burleigh in his book on World War II, Moral Combat, and Jean Bethke Elshtein in her book on the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Just War Against Terror, both write about values and moral standards—but neither devote any space to talk about love. In the “real world,” love is irrelevant it would seem. But is it? Have the violent strategies with which the “realists” deal with conflict and wrongdoing actually worked to enhance human life?
I think this is a challenging question—given all the terrible things that go on in our world. I wonder if the book of Revelation gives us any insights about love and social life? What would you guess I think? Let me read a portion of Revelation—a passage that may not seem to say much about love—chapters 15 and 16, and then you can see what I will pull out of the hat. Continue reading