11 June 2017

One Love. Which Love?

I sat up in bed the other night and watched the whole three hour long 'One Love Manchester’ concert. It was a heartfelt response to the terror attack at the Ariana Grande concert a fortnight earlier. For me, the wonderful irony of this star-studded event was that 50,000 tear-stained faces gathered together in a collective expression of their own, new kind of faith (faith in love, faith in god and some kind of redemption), to stand in defiance of terrorists motivated by a perversion of an old kind of faith.

From Coldplay singing songs about broken longing and rescue (Fix You) to Robby Williams breaking down as he looks to heaven singing about angels, to the Black Eyed Peas singing 'father, father, father help us we need some guidance from above' (Where is the love). This was an event dripping with longing for something that transcends our pain and helplessness. I find funerals often carry that same atmosphere of tempered invincibility and tentative hope.

So as much as we love to hate religion these days, in the face of grave injustice and loss, people rarely turn to atheism for inspiration and hope. No, we are strangely drawn back to that transcendent itch, that whisper under all our angst and bravado for something beyond us, perhaps even someone to call God.

But who or what is that anymore?

It felt like there was a grasping for language to put around this longing — Justin Bieber calling the masses to keep chanting ‘love’, then Katy Perry pleading with them to look at each other and say ‘I love you’. And in all the talk about love, no one was really saying what love is or where it comes from. Did the ecstatic crowd think they were feeling the love when Bieber took the stage?

One love! Which love?

If only they had rolled out Foreigner to sing their 1984 classic ‘I want to know what love is,’ perhaps we could have had a moment of clarity! How do we know what love is? As I watched this quasi-worship service, I dreamt “If only Bono would come out on stage now and say: ‘People, all this talk of love – let me tell you that real love’s source is God and he perfectly and personally reveals it in Jesus.’” Alas, even Bono let me down.

Just a few days after the Manchester attack, Australian Nurse Kirsty Boden was killed after running into the storm of suffering to help the wounded on London Bridge.  Now that is love.

But in this age of awkward hesitancy to hang our spiritual hat on anything old or orthodox, the greatest, most inspiring modern stories of love still point us back to that world shaping love story of Jesus, God in in the flesh, stepping into our brokenness, running into the storm of our suffering and loving us to the point of the ultimate sacrifice. In death, defining what love is, and then in resurrection, revealing the extent of his power to overcome and redeem even the worst of what this world can do.

And even though a growing portion of Australian society doesn’t want to be identified with religious faith, I just wonder if intrinsically we already know that love is more than emotion or sentiment or biological response. No, the One Love that serves, sacrifices and even dies in another's place, that love is divine . . . and Jesus perfectly defines it.