On Christian Conception and Responsibility
In her book The Humility of God , Franciscan sister Ilia Delio writes that “it is the task of Christians to help personalize the universe in the love of Christ” and “to discover Christ at the heart of the universe.” As a Christian, I am called to give birth to the love of Christ in the world.
This vocation establishes a foundational framework for how I conceive and respond to the other. If I truly believe in the Incarnation and am truly motivated by the Resurrection, then I will conceive the other as a child of God, a beloved of God, a brother or sister made for Christ, as one meant to share in the love of Christ. Moreover, I will see and follow through on the obligation to love the other. My most fundamental response to the other will be a response of love. I will desire that I and the other share in the love life of the Trinity.
This Christian conception and responsibility should inform every encounter we have with others – even those encounters marked by enmity and hostility. Christ’s command to love our enemies presupposes that we will have enemies. Jesus didn’t magically rid the world of evil; we’re certainly not going to. The call to love our enemies is not a call to pretend that others never really mean us harm. It is a call to see others and respond to them in love and in truth, to see our enemies first and foremost as those to whom divine love obligates us.
Regrettably, I don’t always see the other this way. The conflicts I have with others establish their own images of the other. Too often I imagine another first and foremost as an enemy to be defeated. He is sometimes to me nothing more than a villain, a terrorist, a competitor, a tyrant, a threat, or a danger. I cheer his downfall and celebrate his defeat. Mindful of my temporal good, I forget his eternal good and forsake the law of love.
As Sister Delio rightly observes, this world is messy, but that is no excuse to abandon the world. God is involved in the mess, “humbly bent down in love for a fragile and finite creation,” and his command of love demands that we also be lovingly involved in the mess. That poses some risk. Jesus understood that risk. The Christian martyrs knew that risk as well, yet their love for those who brought about their deaths prevailed. In dying for Christ and in dying for their enemies, Christians gave birth to Christ’s love. If I call myself a Christian, then I am called to brave the risks of a messy and dangerous world. If I ignore that call, then I do not know Christ.
Delio, Ilia. The Humility of God: A Franciscan Perspective. (Cincinnati: St. Antony Messenger Press, 2005), 130-1.