Kabir, a fifteenth-century Hindu mystic, writes:
What you call ‘salvation’ belongs to the time before death.
If you don’t break your ropes while you’re alive,
do you think
ghosts will do it after? ….
What is found now is found then.
If you find nothing now,
you will simply end up with an apartment in the City of Death.
If you make love with the divine now, in the next life you will have
the face of satisfied desire.
To make love with the divine. I suspect most of us will picture that as a warm, privatized, affective intimacy, the way we imagine romantic love, except here the other partner is God. Indeed, Christian mystical literature abounds with images of this kind, as does the Gospel of John. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that such a conception is over-idealized and over-privatized. Making love with the divine, if Jesus is to be believed, is something more assessable and more communal than our affective image of intimacy.
How do we make love with the divine in this life? I have always taught that there are four non-negotiables to Christian discipleship: moral fidelity in our private lives, a commitment to social justice, some involvement within ecclesial community, and a mellow, gracious heart. We make love to the divine by living out these in our lives.
To make this more assessable, let me suggest that making love with the divine in this life asks ten things of us.
- A moral fidelity in our private lives
Scripture tells us that those who love God keep his commandments and those who say they love him but don’t keep his commandments are liars. Moreover, it tells us that we are inside a body within which even our most private actions affect everyone else. We make love with the divine by not having any dark, hidden secrets.
2. An effort to live out our lives inside of community
We are called to live our lives and come to God inside of a community. We cannot make love with God alone. It’s always God, others, and ourselves. When we stand before God in judgment, as Charles Peguy suggests, we will be asked, “Where are the others?” Making love with the divine means being both spiritual and religious.
3. A mellow heart that radiates gratitude and forgiveness
Like the older brother of the prodigal son, we can do all the right things, but with the wrong energy. We make love with God by fueling ourselves with gratitude rather than bitterness, and by forgiving others (and God) for life’s unfairness and all the things that have wounded us.
4. A proactive reaching out to the poor and a perennial concern for justice to the world
We cannot make love with God inside an intimacy that does not also take in the poor and the broken. Likewise, we cannot make love with God when we are indifferent to injustice. As Jesus makes clear, a private personal relationship with God never compensates for indifference to the poor and to injustice.
5. A life lived in truth which refuses to lie no matter how inconvenient
To make love with the divine is to live in the truth. Satan is the prince of lies. The single most dangerous thing we can do spiritually is to refuse to acknowledge what is true, and the single most important way we make love with God is never to lie.
6. A childlikeness that never falls into the illusion of self-sufficiency
Life may never be taken for granted, but only as granted. We make love to the divine by never living the illusion of self-sufficiency, by acknowledging always that life is gift and that we are dependent and interdependent with others and with God.
7. A perennial effort to love those who hate us, to not give back in kind
We make love with the divine whenever we love those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and forgive those who hurt us. This is its very essence.
8. A heart open to all
God’s eternal banquet table is open to everyone who is willing to sit down with everyone. Since God loves everyone, we make love with the divine by sharing God’s universal embrace.
9. An habitual openness to let God’s energy flourish within our lives
We make love with the divine by letting God’s energy flourish through our lives, namely, when we let the divine energy inside us be joyous and generative so as to radiate life no matter what cards we are dealt.
10. A willingness to wait, to live in patience
We make love with the divine whenever we accept to live in patience, to wait for life and love to unfold according to their own inner dictates. We make love to the divine whenever we carry healthily the tension of chastity, not just in the area of sexuality, but also in all areas of life.
The prophet Micah puts all of this succinctly: act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly.