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Love is Self-Emptying

How can we actually love our neighbor? Our theme this week is Love All. It is the fourth and final installment of our Advent Conspiracy series. I’ve been blogging about it all week. So far I’ve created two visual meditations (here and here) and have been quoting Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations. Today I will risk sounding like a broken record, because, yes, Rohr’s meditation is aligned well with our theme.

Actually, it is Rohr’s reference to theologian Sally McFague’s work that is spot on. I encourage you to read the entire post here. McFague reminds us that the key to God’s love is self-emptying. The fancy word for this is kenosis. It means to empty and is used in Philippians 2:7 to describe what Jesus did when he became human.

He emptied himself of the glory of divinity to take on flesh, and then humbled himself in his humanity to take on the cross.

So, when we read in our text for this week, in 1 John 3:16, “we know love by this, that he lay down his life for us,” we can envision an emptying of God’s life, through Jesus, into our life. Then, the verse goes on to say that “we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” What does this look like? We pour ourselves out to bring life to others.

This, I believe, is a picture of the Holy Spirit. It is the life-water, the energy of love, that binds everything together. When we live in the illusion that we are self-contained, and self-made creatures who have the right to hoard wealth or exalt ourselves above other creatures, we cut ourselves off from life itself. That is why John can say in verse 15, “All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them.”

Read the final paragraph of McFague in Rohr’s meditation,

. . . [I]f one understands God to be not a “substance” but the active, creative love at work in the entire universe, then “loving God” is not something in addition to loving the world, but is rather the acknowledgement that in loving the world, one is participating in the planetary process (which some identify as “God”) of self-emptying love at all levels. By understanding both “God” and the world in this way—that is, as radically kenotic—this essay can be read as both Christian and interfaith. Thus all can participate in the kenotic paradigm as a way of loving the neighbor, a process in which God’s own self may also be seen at work.

These thoughts take me back to a theme that has been central to my own spiritual growth for decades. I call it the Overflow Principle. Read about it here. Meditate on this image. peace.

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