“Love does take us and transfigure and torture us. It does break our hearts with an unbearable beauty like the unbearable beauty of music.” G.K. Chesterton
Love is unbearable, it demands losing yourself, serving another from the depths of our hearts, and risking everything; and it is so beautiful. The most beautiful things really are almost unbearable, Chesterton uses music as an example, I think of the ocean, in all its powerful splendor it almost rips your soul open.
But the word “love” has been so abused and misused it’s almost a joke to even use it anymore. “Love” has been equated with lust, greed, power and mere infatuation. We throw it around to describe an affinity for cupcakes or puppies; for most of what we use the word “love” to describe, Chesterton’s words don’t apply. We have so cheapened this powerful word that we really don’t know what it is at all.
Then again, we do, it’s been defined for us, very clearly.
1 John 3:16
We know love by this, that He [Jesus] laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for our brethren.
Real love demands death to self, to our selfish desires. Real love really does transfigure and torture us, it is unbearable, it demands everything. But it is beautiful, more breathtaking then the most color-saturated sunrise, and beyond any musical score we have heard. Love has an unbearable beauty that rips our hearts open, it removes the deepest, ugliest sin from its root and fills us with the glory of God. Love, real love, is God (1 John 4:8). He expressed his love so clearly, so elaborately we are fools to settle for such cheap imitations.
Jesus, the baby we are celebrating, he is unbearable, he demands we die to ourselves, to our sin; and he is beautiful, because he demands we die to ourselves so that we can truly live. He demands that we take up our cross and follow him, and it feels like torture as he transforms us, but in our transformation from wimpy creatures who worship ourselves, to children of God we see that our life before Christ wasn’t life at all, we thought it was, and we balk as he asks us to let go of our petty sins, but as soon as we’ve released them the astonishing beauty of a life with God makes them look like garbage, because in light of Christ and real love, our cheap imitations are just that: worthless.
May the love of God, expressed in a tiny infant born to bear the sins of the world, break our hearts and transform us with his unbearable beauty.