2 Peter 1:3-4 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
“Entering a tavern in the Polish countryside, a Rabbi saw two peasants at a table, both gloriously in their cups. Each was protesting how much he loved the other, when Ivan said to Peter: ‘Peter, tell me what hurts me?’ Bleary-eyed, Peter looked at Ivan” ‘How do I know what hurts you?’ Ivan’s answer was swift: “If you don’t know what hurts me, how can you say you love me?’”
And the Divine double take, of course, is that loving ourselves frees us to love others. There’s a passage in the novel The Face Beside the Fire that I have been unable to get out of my mind. Laurens Van der Post describes an insecure woman in fierce competition with her husband. To avoid revealing her vulnerability, she foregoes tenderness. ‘Slowly she is poisoning Albert [with a] poison…found in no chemist’s shop….It is a poison brewed from all the words, the delicate, tender, burning trivialities and petty endearments she’s never used.’ The love we withhold through our power struggles in marriage and in our relationships is liberated through our union with Jesus. It is a new way of living in which comparisons, contrasts, rivalries, competition and power trips are gradually left behind.
The compassionate love of Jesus at work within us is an empowering to suffer with, endure with, struggle with, partake of, be moved in the depths of our being for the hunger, nakedness, loneliness, pain, squalid choices and failed dreams of our brothers and sisters in the human family. We don’t have to join mission works in places unknown to us. The passion of Christ is being played out in our own communities, perhaps in our own homes, in anyone who is in agony of flesh or spirit. Jesus is there not in some vague, eerie way but as a real presence-for what we do for the least of our brothers and sister, we do for Him. On that Calvary next door where Christ still hangs, I will minister to my Savior and my Lord.
The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus, by Brennan Manning, pg. 145-154.