Tough Love


In Christianity, both God’s love for us and the love we are to have for one another are linked to the Cross. In his discourse at the Last Supper, Jesus said: “There is no greater love than this, that a man lays his life down for his friends” (John 15:13). But at Gethsemane he prayed to be spared this, and was answered with silence. We pray, “Do not put us to the test,” and it is all right for us to ask not to be crucified. But there are times when the answer will be the one Jesus met at Gethsemane: an apparent silence, one that feels like abandonment. C. S. Lewis pointed out somewhere that of all the prayers in the New Testament, this was the only one that was denied.

I am less interested here in what biblical scholarship might have to say about this than I am in what amounts to the story of Jesus. Think of the fact that when Jesus was baptized there was a voice from heaven: “This is my beloved son.” When he was transfigured there was a voice from heaven: “This is my beloved son.” When Jesus asks the source of that voice for release from the suffering that awaits him, there is no voice from heaven, only silence.

Love in the Christian sense is not a warm feeling, and can even seem at times to be cold (although it never is). Our culture may have a harder time with this than some other cultures do. I read a recent report on the attitudes of young Hindus and Muslims toward arranged marriages....

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About the Author

John Garvey is an Orthodox priest and columnist for Commonweal. His most recent book is Seeds of the Word: Orthodox Thinking on Other Religions.