Jesus is the one who teaches us to love, and his teaching style is the richest imaginable. No boring lecturer, he goes beyond multimedia to true holistic teaching. Jesus knows how we work – the interaction of body, soul and spirit, the response of our mind and heart to our experiences. His love course is comprehensive.
First, Jesus knows that we cannot give what we do not have, and he does not demand that we try. He has loved us, and loves us, like no other lover. He has formed us wonderfully, showered us with natural and spiritual gifts, and created us a beautiful home. But that is not the essence of his love. Many of us cannot or will not appreciate those gifts because we are in too much pain. Pain from the wounds others have inflicted, and pain from our own selfish and suicidal behavior. Here Jesus shows the deeper love that only he can. He has given his life for us, in living and dying as one of us, so that our wounds and diseases of heart and spirit can be healed. He is the lover who trades his peace and joy for our shame and fear, and so he has covered the prerequisite for the love course.
Jesus now begins the instruction. Of course, we can read his words in the Scriptures, and he was a brilliant lecturer. Love was no theory in those classes. Jesus loved, with miracles of healing and deliverance, freeing men, women and children from sickness and suffering, from anguish and depression. He said this was what the Father wanted him to do, to show his love for us. As he taught, Jesus could point out real, living illustrations of his words “…your Heavenly Father knows that you need these things.” He told stories, with familiar characters and situations, and surprising twists. He spoke riddles sometimes, words that left the hearer wondering and searching. He asked questions, and answered questions, playing tricks of wit on those that sought to trick him, to the delight of those with open and humble hearts.
Jesus will teach us this way today, if we allow it. We can relive those lessons from the gospels, certainly. But he is ready to give us our own every day. His images and thoughts flow through the words of centuries of songwriters, poets and novelists. We find his story woven in nearly every story, in human drama, in epic adventures, in comedies and romances. From Cinderella to The Lord of the Rings, the hope and heroism of our Savior echoes over and over. Read the book and watch the movie with him nearby, and be attentive to your heart, where he whispers his commentary “Do you see me there? Did you know that I love you like that? Did you know that I long for you like that?” So he fills our hearts with fire, with passion, with the romance and glory of this supreme lover. We are warming up.
The course includes labs, too, and Jesus doesn’t leave them to some halfhearted assistant. He is there as we walk through the agony and ecstasy of life ourselves, living out the movie scenes without knowing the script. Here he does what no other teacher could ever do. He imparts himself into us. He works his miracles in our hearts – injecting his own compassion and mercy and affection, even for those we thought our enemies. Here we discover we love, like he loves, and we are startled. “Did I really say that? Did I really do that? Do I really feel this for that one who hurt me?” Yes, I do. This is the life and love of God flowing through me to you. Sometimes I hurt and sometimes I am exultant with delight, for this is the real thing. Every part of me is involved, every sense is fed, and the curriculum is worked into every cell and sinew of my being.
Is there a final exam? No, this course continues without end. This prof never retires, and never loses the fire, for this subject is his very favorite. Nobody flunks, either. Whatever mistakes we make, he sympathizes. He was in our shoes once. He knows. But he doesn’t know frustration or discouragement. He hangs in there with us through everything. He shows us what went wrong, he heals, he corrects, he soothes, he encourages, he empowers. And he gives us another shot at it. Over and over, as long as it takes. And when it works, when the love flows through without a bump sometimes, he celebrates. You could say, as the ancient Scripture says “he makes his face to shine upon us.”