Last night my Literature students and I went to a performance of Shakespeare’s cross dressing comedy, ‘As You Like It’. It explores love in many of its facets. How and why does it happen? What does it do to us – for good or bad? Is it different for men and women? What external influences are involved? What about our motives? … and there are more uncomfortable questions.
But underlying all of that is the idea that love, romantic and otherwise, is an essential part of the human character. We all want to love and be loved. A life without love is empty and possibly meaningless.
And then this morning at our College’s ANZAC service our Senior School Captains spoke on the verse John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” This is paraphrased in the War Memorial in Melbourne – “Greater love hath no man”.
This verse must be seen in the context of Christ reflecting on his own sacrifice and then suggesting to his disciples that this sacrifice in turn become a model for their lives. Accepting Christ’s love becomes the foundation of our desire to love like he does. Love, here, is a giving of one’s self for others. It puts others first, which is no doubt the reason for its presence in the War Memorial it highlights the Aussie ideal of mateship.
There is nothing amiss with the Bard’s exploration of love. He raises excellent questions and challenges us. However, the answers are not found in his plays, but rather in the gospel. Christ’s love becomes a model for our relations – romantic and otherwise. Christ’s love doesn’t start with our own private swooning’s, or sexual desires but for the welfare and best outcomes for the other – friend and foe alike.
Shakespeare raises tough questions but Jesus gives us even tougher answers.