I did it for love

Chaplain’s Cornerwhitman padre

Padre Andrew Whitman

A fellow soldier asked me one day, “Padre, what makes people do such evil things?” and he referred to some awful incident reported on the news the night before. What makes people drive a van down a city sidewalk, killing people going about their business? What makes a couple of teens murder total strangers on a remote highway? What could motivate such hate?

I had to think about that one for a while. My reply is this: they did it for love.

It’s obvious, if you think about it. We’ve all known someone who has done something for love. Some may have gotten into crime just to gain the affection of a lover. Well, it goes deeper than romance. When we love someone, or something enough, we might do whatever it takes to get it, no matter what stands in our way.

Love drives both the good and the bad in us. It inspires great acts of valour, to attain the heart’s desire – freedom, security for our families and fellow citizens, a future for humanity. There is a bumper sticker you might have seen around military bases that goes like this, “I don’t fight because I hate what is in front of me, but because I love what is behind me.” Yet the same love may inspire acts of evil – revenge, destruction of the innocent and so on? You may even see it in your own home. For example, if you lose patience with a loved one, who seeks to have your attention, when all your trying to do is have a bit of time for yourself.

Nowadays, we tend to blame all the bad stuff in the world on “hate.” But hate is not actually a motivator. Hate is not so much the opposite of love as it is the absence of love: like cold is the absence of heat, or dark is the absence of light. No one hurts someone just because they hate them. I only hurt you if you stand between me and what I love (or, as in the bumper sticker, if you threaten to come through me at what I love).

The problem then, is that we love things, and we need them just to feel alive, to have purpose, to be satisfied, but we really aren’t sure what we need to do to get them. We are insecure. We try being virtuous and honourable, but it fails to satisfy. So we might resort to other means. Still, it is not enough. Even if, for a moment, we feel we have grasped it, we inevitably falter, fail, and it eludes us again. Only perfection can hold it.

The answer to this dilemma is that love is given, not earned. The thing that your heart desires above all else cannot be won either by feats of valour or acts of treachery. It must be given to you.

But who could I ever trust to give it to you when all around have failed me, even myself? Then, you must find the right thing to love! We must find the thing that satisfies us without demanding perfection. That accepts and loves us even if we fail.

In my tradition, you might guess, that one thing is a one person, Jesus. Because he attained perfection to earn the things our hearts desire, and therefore is able to give them to us free of charge. He does not demand evil to get what he has, and he inspires valour in gratitude for what he gives. But the key is to love him rather than the things he gives. I challenge you to find that one thing.