Jean Vanier on Love

“Love doesn’t mean doing extraordinary or heroic things. It means knowing how to do ordinary things with tenderness.” Jean Vanier, Community and Growth (London: Darton, Longman, and Todd, 1979), p. 220.

I think Vanier is precisely right in shifting our imaginations and language on love away from epics and towards ordinary actions. I know that too often among people my own age participating in life in the american experiment, we tend to think of love in epic ways.

Sunday nights I sometimes visit another church after i’m done preaching, and I just like being exposed to various ideas going on in evangelical culture, and i have noticed with this church and others like it, love is this thing that is grasped in moment of epic pursuit. Love is something that needs to be made deeper and experienced more profoundly. In principle I guess I could agree with them, but the expression of these things is backwards. They think that by making love an epic pursuit that is rifled with the language of desire and lust it will make it more actual, and I cannot help but disagree.

Love is ordinary.

Love is beautiful precisely because it is ordinary, because it has the chance and the desire to appear everywhere. Love is being able to do everything we do in a sort of suffused and permeated manner, being able to make time and space, being able to create a place for others in our lives and pouring ourselves out to do so. Of course we know that perfect love is seemingly distant from most of us, but that’s ok, because we are building towards it, we are building for it, and we are hoping that Christ’s own love will be expressed in us.

I won’t labor the point like i sometimes do. Love, real, perfect love is the daily order of new creation, and we’ll do well to remember that and express it. as Kurt Vonnegut said “We must be very careful what we pretend to be, because we are what we pretend to be.”

Why not pretend to be loving? maybe it will rub off on us, at least that’s what I think sanctification really is all about at the end of the day. Becoming perfected in Divine Self-emptying, other preferring, tender, gentle Love. Love is the order of the kingdom we claim we will inherit because the God at our center is Love itself, He is what it means to be and have love. My little Children, love one another. My big kids, love one another. One family, one bread, one cup, one baptism, one faith, One Love.

It’s extraordinary to be ordinary in love. It’s extraordinary for love to be the ordinary character of your life. There you have it. My two cents. Enjoy.


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