It has the Power to Change Everything
25 June 2007
'Passion to change the world can come from two sources. It can come from deep hatred and bitterness or it can come from love – the love that cares and is concerned about the unfortunate.'
A deputy head teacher of a school was talking recently about a presentation of the Darfur crisis in his school. Constantly on screen beneath all the slides depicting the horror, tragedy and urgency of the situation were the words, 'The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference'.
Veteran French socialist leader Irene Laure was asked what kept her going as a grandmother and great-grandmother, travelling to other countries and continents to talk about reconciliation. She said she did it, 'for the love of tomorrow'. Having found an answer in her own heart to her hatred of the Germans for all the suffering inflicted on her native France during World War II, she wanted to share that experience of forgiveness as widely as possible. Such a change of heart and willingness to forgive will be needed on a large scale if we are to create the world our loved grandchildren deserve, she told a crowd of 5,000 at a post-war rally in Lille. 'Blue-eyed grandchildren, dark-eyed grandchildren – remember they await your move and with it the promise of a new world,' she said.
'Passion to change the world can come from two sources,' concluded a trade unionist who in former times had been committed to Marxism. 'It can come from deep hatred and bitterness or it can come from love – the love that cares and is concerned about the unfortunate.' He was referring to the motivating love which is the opposite of indifference. It is the concern and compassion that forces us to act when we see suffering or extreme poverty or manifest injustice. 'You can give without loving,' said Amy Carmichael, 'but you cannot love without giving.'
Love can also transform. As the hit song from Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Aspects of Love puts it, 'Love changes everything'.
'Yes, love changes everyone.
Live or perish in its flame
Love will never let you be the same.'
I experienced something of this in my relationship with my father. In my teens I had become very critical of him, particularly, I suppose, because he was a church minister. I somehow expected him to be perfect – a standard I didn't at all expect of others! My critical attitude was getting out of hand. One day I had the simple thought, 'Why don't you just love him like you would anybody else?' I saw that what I was demanding of him was plain unreasonable. I apologized for my criticism and coldness and I experienced a real sense of liberation and of love for my father. The relationship was transformed.
Where does this love come from? Like grace, it is a sheer gift. My own belief is that what love I have and can give has its source in God's amazing love for me. That love is entirely unearned and undeserved. And it is unconditional. Philip Yancey puts it this way, 'There is nothing I can do to make God love me more. There is nothing I can do to make God love me less.' What we are called upon to do is to open up our hearts – to other people, other cultures and even other continents. Then we experience that love, 'vast as the ocean', flooding in. 'This,' says Alexander McCall Smith at the end of his Botswana-based detective novel In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, 'is what redeems us, this is what makes our pain and sorrow bearable – this giving of love to others, this sharing of the heart.'
But there is a risk. It makes us vulnerable and open to hurt. This is of course particularly true when we lose someone we really love. As Dame Cicely Saunders, pioneer of the modern hospice movement, says, 'We live in a world where love and loss seem to go together – and perhaps they have to go together.' Parents can be hurt by children they love and vice versa. Sometimes the more intensely you love the more deeply you are hurt.
Yet love, in the end, outlasts all else. In St Paul's much quoted words, love, 'always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.' It has indeed the power to change everything.