Saturday, September 5, 2009

Anne Rice on Christian Love

Anne Rice, who most people know from her books about vampires, rediscovered her Christian faith. Of course, she wrote a book about it, Called Out of Darkness, in which she documents the fraying and then the recovery of her faith. The last couple of chapters, all by themselves, is worth the price of the book, due to the meditations on love, sin and grace they contain.

But it wasn't until sometime in 2005 that the obvious leapt out at me. The Lord of whom I was writing, the Lord of whom I was reading, was demanding a complete transformation in Him. And that transformation revolved around love.
It is painful to admit that this transformation came to me during a television interview...I was being interviewed by an intelligent man...he asked simply enough: "How has returning to Christ actually influenced your life?"
I found myself thinking about this and then answering: "It demands that I love people."
This was a turning point, this simple acknowledgement. Because I began then to realize what the message of Christ was for me: to love my friends and to love my enemies...
In the months that followed, I thought a great deal about this commitment to love. I found myself reading the Gospel of Matthew more than the other Gospels. I found myself entranced with the Sermon on the Mount.
And something came clear to me that had never been clear before. Loving our neighbors and our enemies is perhaps the very hardest thing that Christ demands. It's almost impossible to love one's neighbors and enemies. It's almost impossible to feel that degree of total giving to other human beings. To practice the daily love of neighbor and enemy calls into question one's smallest and greatest competitive feelings, one's common angry reactions to slights both great and small. In sum, the will to love all human beings must pervade every word, thought and deed. One has to love the rude salesclerk, and the foreign enemy of one's country; one has to love those who are "patently wrong" in their judgements of us. One has to love those who despise us openly and write and tell us so by e-mail. One has to love the employee who steals from you, and the murderer excoriated on national television...
I am a baby Christian when it comes to loving. I am just learning. So far were my daily thoughts from loving people that I have a lifelong vocation now before me in learning how to find Christ in every single person I meet. Again and again I fail because of temper and pride. I fail because it is so easy to judge someone else rather than love that person.

Perhaps it is my bias as a member of a denomination that puts a lot of emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit, that the thing that Ms. Rice is missing, at least in this writing, is the help available in the person of the Holy Spirit, and the presence of God in one's life. Paul wrote in Philippians, " I do all things in Christ who strengthens me." Any loving that I do (me, the observer) is all through the power of the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit's help, I have no hope of loving the enemy or the neighbor. I have no hope of not extending the middle finger to the inconsiderate driver. I have no hope of loving those I encounter in my work who are manipulative, unpleasant and angry. Only through the Power of God can I be like Christ as I move through this world. But it starts with an open, humble attitude, the open humble attitude that these excerpts model.

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