Why do we murder love?
A Holy Week reflection.
As Christians sit with the story of the last week of Christ’s life, a week that showcases the tragedy of human nature, questions linger with me: how do we still murder Christ today? And why do we murder Christ?
Why do we murder love?
I do not know.
For his part, Christ doesn’t ask this question of us. He doesn’t seem particularly curious about it. Christ just seems to understand that this is how we are: complicit in the daily murder of God.
Even though he seems to have accepted this truth about people long ago, it still hurts him. Oh, it hurts.
How could it not? If anybody in Christian history should not have been disappointing, it should have been the disciples. If anybody in Christianity could have learned how to save themselves from themselves, it would have been the people who spent three years with the ultimate Teacher. But we know how that story goes.
And it is a story that still goes. I do not know of anyone who does not feel disappointed by people every day, at least a little bit, at least once.
We all know the million minor varieties of disappointment we give and receive. Bad vibes instead of good. Speaking at instead of talking with. Never getting an apology; never giving one, or giving a poor excuse of one. Being ghosted and ghosting, misunderstood and misunderstanding, flaked and flaking, betrayed and betraying, lying and being lied to, being foolish when they (we) should know better, tossing out trust with the trash, manipulating the truth for a narrative, twisting words to fit convenient stories. There are still much more significant harms than these that the word “disappointment” fails to convey.
But that’s just some of how we murder love. But why?
Why are we how we are?
I do not know.
I know that Christ’s hurt and disappointment in us does not stop him from the work of love. Likewise, I am amazed at the people in our midst who do not stop loving in the face of the perpetual disappointment machine known as life.
When I sit with this Passion narrative, I ask this too: why do we think we’re not in this story?
Why do we think the story of the betrayal of Love is something that just happened 2000 years ago? Why do we think that evil is “out there” or “in them” or “back then” rather than in here, in us, right now?
The disciples cried, “Surely not I!” And when we read the horrors of history, including the horrors of Christian past, we often cry this. Surely not us.
I remember being 14 years old, a spotlight operator for a small North Carolina community theater production of Jesus Christ Superstar. I remember my budding theology as a vague, “Oh yeah, Judas was such a bad guy (with a killer falsetto), and it’s so tragic what he did to Jesus.” Surely this betrayer is not a part of me. Surely not I.
In the story of his last meal, Jesus identifies “the one” who betrays him as one who is eating with him. In John and Luke’s version, this betrayer is identified within Christ’s invitation: “the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” The betrayer is identified by being invited into the same communion that he invites all of us into. While Judas is singled out in the story as one particular betrayer, and Peter as another kind, they are far from alone. By the end of the weekend, all of the disciples are complicit in this betrayal; “the one” who betrays is also the many.
And so I have to believe that when Jesus invites us to his table, his very invitation is simultaneously an acknowledgment of who we are and what we will inevitably do. For he knows the betrayers are actually hungry, even famished. We are not just thirsty for love; we are parched. Christ still invites us because Christ doesn’t come to heal the healed; Christ comes to heal the sick.
And even though he knows when we’re lying to him and ourselves, like Peter, he’s still inviting us. And he still says, “On this liar, this coward, this fool, I will build my church. Yes, on this hypocrite of hypocrites. And for the rest of time, I will entrust total phonies to be the stewards of my love.” As my Dad recently said in true Dad-wisdom fashion, “Of course God works through flawed people; what choice does God have?”
We hypocrites, we liars, we who murder love…somehow, we’re still good enough for the love of Christ. We’re still good enough to keep trying to keep love alive. Even, despite, and in spite of ourselves.
I really don’t know why we murder love. I don’t even know all the ways I do. I know the Christian saints teach us that we can spend our whole lives waking up to how we’re caught in the games of our humanity, and we still wouldn’t fully get it; we still wouldn’t be perfectly living in the mind of Christ, much less his heart. If these saints are special, it’s because each time they think they’ve reached the bottom of the predicament, there is another day to find new dimensions of our default state of sin-consciousness. These saints know that it’s impossible to escape it by ourselves. If we could get ourselves out of it by ourselves, we wouldn’t need salvation.
Even if we cannot get a clear answer why we murder love, I hope we can find answers to these:
If we know we are trapped, can we have compassion for every single other person who is too?
If we know every single other person is trapped, can we have compassion for ourselves when we’re trapped?
And if we cannot have compassion for ourselves or others as we go on murdering love, can we trust that Christ still does?
Because the invitation is still open.