The way of love.

May 24, 2009

About six years ago, I heard a story that deeply moved me.  The story was told about a soldier sentenced to death by Oliver Cromwell during the English civil war.  When the evening curfew bell rang, the soldier was to be shot.

Evening descended, and the bell did not ring.  Minutes passed, and still, there was no sound.

Cromwell sent servants to see why the bell did not ring.

By the bell was the soldier’s fiance, her hands bloodied and bruised as she cupped her hands around the bell’s clapper (the inner part of the bell) to keep it from ringing judgment on the one she loved.

A little later, she was weeping as she stood before Oliver Cromwell.  “Why have you done this?” he asked her.

I don’t know if her response was recorded, but maybe there was none — at least, not a verbal one.  Maybe she simply held out her bloodied, crushed hands, letting them speak for her as she wept.

Whatever her response, Oliver Cromwell was so moved that he told her, “Because of your sacrifice, your lover shall live.”

It’s a touching love story, but even more so, it made me consider whether I love sacrificially with the single desire that another might live — not just physically but eternally.  And it made me consider the One who once and for all demonstrated His love by sending His Son to lay down His life, that the bell of judgment would not ring on those who would believe in Him.

Like all analogies, this one begins to break down at a certain point.  But hopefully not too much unlike Christ’s parables, it is useful in serving as a ramp to greater truth.

For those who are now His, shouldn’t this be our posture as well?  Bloodying and bruising our own hands, so to speak, if that’s what it will take to keep judgment from ringing on those we love (or those we ought to love)?  Bloodying and bruising our own hands in love rather than clanging our self-fashioned bells of judgment against one another, envying and striving to push ahead of one another at any cost?

We ought to cling to the bell.  We ought to pursue love.

But what is this way of love?  Why does Paul call it a more excellent way?  Over what does it excel?  What does it surpass?  And must it be a path strewn with blindness and dismissal of sin?  Must it be a path that forks away from the beauty of holiness and truth?

This way of love.  It is a path so little known, so little traveled.  My questions cannot be answered from afar, in abstraction.  My questions will find answer only as I actually walk this path.  As I pursue it.  As I know the One of whom Scripture says is love.

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