“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Theme of Love in The Brothers Karamazov: The Redeeming Power of Love

"Who can describe the blessed bond of the love of God? What man is able to tell the excellence of its beauty, as it ought to be told? The height to which love exalts is unspeakable. Love unites us to God. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love beareth all things, is long-suffering in all things." - Clement of Rome, in his letter to the Corinthian church

"Fear nothing and never be afraid. And don't worry. If only your penitence fail not, God will forgive all. There is no sin, and there can be no sin on all the earth, which the Lord will not forgive to the truly repentant! Man cannot commit a sin so great as to exhaust the infinite love of God. Can there be a sin which could exceed the love of God? Think only of repentance, continual repentance, but dismiss fear altogether. Believe that God loves you as you cannot conceive; that he loves you with your sin, in your sin...If you are penitent you love. And if you love you are of God. All things are atoned for, all things are saved by love...Love is such a priceless treasure that you can redeem the whole world by it, and cleanse not only your sins but the sins of others." (The Brothers Karamazov, book 2, ch. 3)

"Loving humility is marvelously strong, the strongest of all things. There is nothing else like it." (book 6, ch. 2)
Dostoevsky and Clement of Rome describe love as a treasure of unspeakable height and depth, with power to wash away sins, even redeem the world. Our sins are innumerable, but no sin cannot be overcome by the infinite love of God. "How wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ," writes Paul.

In "The Victory of God" I wrote about God's mysterious and paradoxical triumph over evil in the cross. It was not only through his love that God accomplished this great victory (his wisdom, justice, power, etc. were all brought together in the cross), but if there is one attribute of God that is closest to the heart of it, even to the heart of who God is, it is love. There was power in that love, a power "as strong as death" (Song of Solomon 8:6; see my posts on "Harry Potter," a beautiful story in which love conquers death, just as it does in the cross), even "more wonderful and more terrible than death," which the enemy could neither understand nor overcome (see also "The Love of God").

In Christ's sufferings and death, God sheds his tears upon a broken earth and washes away its sin and evil. The body and blood of Christ, broken and shed for us, is God's gift of love to a world that rejected him, and through that gift, the anguish and tears of God himself, our sins are forgiven and we are redeemed from death's curse.

It is this Love that we are called to share in. In Dostoevsky's words, we can love to the point of bearing others' sufferings and sins with them, and through forgiveness our love too can "cover a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8). We can bring forth fruit by extending God's love to the world - not a fruit that grows from us, but a fruit that grows from the cross, and only through us. We "fill up" (Colossians 1:24) what Christ accomplished on the cross by reflecting his light to others and giving ourselves as he gave himself. Love may cost us everything - it did for God - but in losing our lives we will find an eternal treasure.

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