I subscribe to the Daily Dig hosted by the Daily Plough and get a short tidbit every morning from some amazing saints whose seasoned lives point down the road to a more vibrant, transforming faith. This morning they posted this quote from a twenty-three year old, written in the 1500s from a dungeon where he had been imprisoned for his faith:
Love is like fire – When it is first kindled in a man, small troubles and temptations smother and hinder it; but when it really burns, having kindled the man’s eagerness for God, the more temptations and tribulations meet it, the more it flares, until it overcomes and consumes all injustice and wickedness. (Love is Like Fire by Peter Riedemann)
This image could apply to a lot of conversations I had over the weekend in Phoenix. Living in the Father’s love is a growing reality and as we’re growing to engage that love, it will help if we have an honest sense of how strong that love is in us at any particular time. In the early days it can feel fragile as it succumbs easily to religious condemnation, gets challenged by events in our lives we don’t understand, or can even be swallowed up by our own distractions and indulgences. Like a small fire in the wind, it may be difficult to sustain and it may be true that we’ll have to avoid some places and people where love in us is challenged or thwarted.
But as we grow in the reality of a Father’s affection we discover that his love in us is the strongest force in the universe like a raging wildfire where the wind only makes it stronger. Now it consumes the same influences that it sought to avoid so that we can be in those same places, or hang out with the same people. No longer feeling challenged by their brokenness or judgment, we are free to love them as love finds its way toward justice, truth, and joy. I used to think love was such a weak way to live in the world, and discovered that there is nothing stronger and nothing richer.
So let love grow in you. If you need to be careful for a season of those places where it is challenged, do so. But watch as that love begins to grow how free you’ll be in those settings that used to challenge you the most.
What a powerful view of love, and a powerful observation by a twenty-three year old! How I wish that were the predominant heritage of the Anabaptist tradition from which Peter Riedemann came rather than their rigid theology. I suspect most of our traditions had rich beginnings in people who came to discover and live in the depths of Father’s affection, only to have subsequent generations miss that reality and give more effort to systemitizing their beliefs than propogating his love. Sad isn’t it? Since it is only the ferocity of God’s love that changes a world, not all our doctrine or rituals.