Never Give in to the Demands of Christ

“Never give in to the demands of Christ. Give in to the demands of your own love for him.” — Anthony De Mello, SJ

We would do anything for love. Those who have fallen in love know this. I’ve sworn it, because I’ve felt it. And though I don’t know that I’ve ever yet loved well enough for this to be entirely true, the essence of it is, for the simple fact that we are reckless in love, abandoned to it and abandoned to consequences. I’ve unashamedly made decisions and taken risks I wouldn’t have made had I not been in love—not all of them, I hope, selfish.

Parents know this best of all, because they fall in love with their child before their child has the awareness of love, and this is really a stupid thing if we’re honest, because their child will never be able to return that love in measure. A parent might give their life for the child they’re in love with, even if it’s unborn, even if it’s grown and ungrateful and completely unmeriting of their love—even if the parent is undeserving to love the child. Yet none of this seems to be a concern of love. It forgets measurements, and it forgets itself. Love doesn’t do math.

Love is all accelerator, no break. It motivates us; it opens us. Far from the picture of the dumbstruck teenager lost in his own head over a girl, love takes us out of ourselves. (Only, when we don’t know how to direct our love the right way round, we double back on ourselves.) If we let go the e-break, love moves us forward—even if we don’t know where: to the other person, I suppose. Our daughter’s cradle, our boyfriend’s dorm-room window two hours away, our favorite poet’s latest volume, our loved one’s memory. In the pique of love, we lurch forward, headlong, clueless to direction. Love doesn’t aim—just course-corrects.

Let’s suppose we love Gød. What do we do? We serve Gød. How? We ask Gød how we can serve. Gød is silent. Or maybe your sense is that Gød speaks too much, speaks through the Bible: love your neighbor, feed the hungry, care for the sick, do justice, advocate for the oppressed, make disciples, pray without ceasing . . . Maybe your sense is that Gød speaks through your guilt: give more to missions, volunteer with the homeless, pray more, quit your career and work for a nonprofit . . . Maybe your sense is that Gød speaks through other’s expectations: start a new ministry, study Scripture every morning, help your parents more, start evangelizing . . .

The Jesuit priest Anthony De Mello gives this advice: “Never give in to the demands of Christ.” He often paused here. Our understanding of what Jesus asks of us may often be distorted, but De Mello doesn’t say, “Do not give in to the false demands of Christ.” His advice presupposes that the real Jesus does place demands on us, yet he tells us never to give in to them. How can a priest tell us not to obey Jesus? Because De Mello would have us obey, follow and love Jesus a better way: “Give in to the demands of your own love for him.” What does your own love say today?

Love is reckless. Love has no breaks. Love doesn’t do math. We would do anything for love.

The founder of De Mello’s religious order, Ignatius of Loyola, recommended an examination in prayer to be done in conversation with the self and Jesus: “What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What ought I to do for Christ?” This can be a pretty heavy order. There can be a lot of guilt there, a lot of frustration and confusion, or possibly a lot of pride. But consider these questions in light of love, rather than expectations. A question that’s been turning things inside out for me has been, “If I could do anything for Jesus, what would it be?” or “If I really loved Jesus more than anything, what would I do?” I find as I ask these, my problem is less not knowing how to love Jesus; it’s my not loving—or my not allowing myself to love—Jesus enough. And for that, I find only one solution for myself: shift my attention, and ask.

Why not try this: Ask Gød not for direction but simply, “How can I love You more?” What does Gød say? What does Gød do? What does Gød do through you in response to that prayer?

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