A Sonnet to Sacrificial Love by J. Roger Wilson, January 2015
Love it was that caused our God to send his son to earth;
Of human birth and humble root, he came in love to die.
Virgin born yet king of all, they worshiped him at birth,
Even though in royal bed he never was to lie.
Oh terrible his sacrifice! For all, his blood was poured.
Virtue was his character; the cross for our sins pays.
Every single one of us he loved, our precious Lord,
Religious rites and holy wars are surely not God’s ways;
He doesn’t need, is not appeased, by willful pride or hate.
As heirs of his, we grow in grace and love through all our days
To learn and live in mercy, faith, and joy, our awesome fate.
Rejecting selfish human power, to take his gracious ways.
Everyone must make a choice, of God’s will or our own,
Delivered by the plan of God in Christ’s death to atone.
For many years, with only a few lapses, I have attempted to write a Christmas sonnet, combining the format of the love sonnet with a message on God’s gracious gift of His son. This year, I didn’t seem to have the motivation or the inspiration till after the holiday, perhaps partly because the “season” seems to become more annoying, every year! I also found that the endless reporting of terrorist attacks and beheadings, so often clearly directed at Christians, hung a cloud over the usual festivities.
For that matter, many who have known me for a year or two know I have often tried to protect our holy day from the literal desecration of those who want the party but not the piety. The stakes have become even greater now. An increasing number of self-proclaimed Muslims have set out to prove their religion the greater and more powerful by simply slaughtering those who believe anything else, but their particular targets are Christianity and Judaism. I am not surprised as these are the two chosen peoples of God, one exclusive by birth, the other by re-birth and therefore open to all who believe.
Two common responses to aggression in the name of Allah are wholly unacceptable. On the one hand, the multicultural relativists see all religions as equivalent and of equal value (no value if truth be known); they tend to protect Islam while attacking Christianity, often claiming both have comparable types of extremism (ignoring the difference between the Koran’s commands to kill infidels compared to the Torah and the Bible both teaching to “love your enemy”). On the other hand, Christians heavily influenced by social and political ideology fall into the trap of hatred and destructive opposition, undoubtedly motivated by fear. While I do believe a country, even the United States with its large Christian population, may and ought to defend its people, believers ought to know that our particular obligation is to love our neighbor, and indeed to love our enemy! Truth shared in genuine, unconditional love is, and forever will be, more powerful than any weapon. My sonnet seeks to remind us that weapons, whether held by Muslims or by those who oppose them, are not the ultimate solution, whatever earthly powers must do to defend and survive irrational aggression.
Within our own nation, another movement of hatred and anger is growing. This one is racial. I blame our first black President for helping create an environment where race conflict is being stirred up rather than being healed, as he promised to do. My sonnet is about love; that isn’t just sentimentalism or wishful thinking. Power will never solve problems of the heart. Opinions about race, culture, traditions, religion, and things like music and art are very personal, often grow out of childhood and family background, and, in the negative case, out of the darker aspects of the soul, what we call sin. For example, despite some idealistic social movements, we generally lock people up for society’s protection and because we cannot easily change them; those facilities are prisons, not “correctional facilities,” one of the popular euphemisms.
In the real “fallen” world, governments must respond with power to attacks using power, whether that power is weapon-based, propaganda-based, economic, or human protest. For that we need armies, policemen, diplomats, weapons,…and wise leaders. This is regrettable but unavoidable if we don’t wish to disappear or die. The best that they can do—and do it they must—is still not only inferior but also a different order from God’s great command to love…neighbor, spouse, children, parents, fellow believers (that is, spiritual sisters and brothers, and, yes, even enemies. We may pray against their evil plans, but Jesus himself says to pray for them, obviously not for their success in evil, but just as clearly their true welfare, their salvation from the lies they follow and the evil they commit. I’ve never been one to focus my hopes and prayers on celebrities, believing somehow their salvation would be especially valuable; yet, we should—and I try to do so—pray for the evil lost to be saved, perhaps as linchpins of a spiritual revival, pray for leaders, even those whose plans and policies I oppose, and the everyday folks who often blindly follow them.
God’s gift to his creation was a powerless infant, God incarnate, bound to weak human flesh. That gift was the start of an amazing place to face evil head on…and vanquish him! God certainly has the power to “take him out,” but his plan was beyond that, to redeem those who seem to be lost to the enemy’s deceptions. At the moment of his apparent victory, with Jesus hanging from a cross, he was defeated forever in that act of sacrificial love. It is the power of that cross and the love of the One who hung there that is the greatest power, the one we must proclaim and use.