Authentic Love in a World of Lies
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).
You deeply need the authentic love of another person. As an infant, your mother spoke to you in sweet, playful tones unlike those with which she addressed others, but you had to believe the baby talk expressed very real delight in you. I hope you were right.
Soon thereafter, your parents taught you not to trust strangers, a tragic but necessary lesson. People will come along with candy or promises of puppies, people who seem very nice but are not. They want to hurt you.
So you learned to meet smiling faces with circumspection. You learned that smiles make the most seductive masks because you want to believe their message of delight in you. The same facial signal either answers your heart’s desire or sets you up for betrayal and humiliation.
Often the same person offers authentic love with a morning smile but may conceal ulterior motives with the same smile that afternoon. We often learn that in our families too. Many intimate relationships involve discernment of smiles and responding with forgiveness and brave trust.
We take these needs and discernment struggles not only to parents and spouses but to teachers, mentors, pastors, and politicians. Sometimes past betrayals magnify our circumspection so much that we cannot receive authentic kindness. Our betrayal stories can expand from real betrayals to many more imagined ones.
When circumspection dominates our social experience too much, we no longer trust smiling faces at all. A smiling face becomes a signal of inauthenticity. Deep down, we want to return to the innocence of receiving a smile as true delight in us, as a signal of solidarity, respect, and care. But in our fear, we close off that option.
However, in closing ourselves off from receiving the love of another, we become untrustworthy to someone else, perhaps even to our own children. Yet, we need to trust some face to feel secure. So we trust not the motherly smile but the warrior’s glare directed away from us toward those different from us, those whom we distrust.
We find that warrior’s glare on the faces of fundamentalist preachers or political leaders who confirm our wounded worldview: We are innocent and under siege. In a world full of enemies, we must exclude, subjugate, or destroy them. Following our glaring leaders, we become the untrustworthy ones en masse.
Jesus came to restore hope for our childhood desire to find trustworthy love and receive it. Also, he came to invigorate our adult desire to truly offer the trustworthy authenticity others seek, from our families outward.
He answered our search for the authentic other by commending to us the meek, the ones who use their strength for gentleness. They have such confidence in God’s loving leading that they recover from betrayal and hurt with more openness and flexibility, not less. They love their enemies.
Thus, the meek put themselves at risk for abuse in a world that does not trust their love. But in the end, they inherit the earth. They receive what they give. Right where they are, they bask in the smile of God welcoming them home.
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