I have a practice of reading the Psalms with “Love” replacing God’s name (instead of the more traditional “Lord”, as if God’s some fussy earl). I find it remarkable to have familiar writing completely recast by changing one word to an alternative that’s no less appropriate.
The excerpt from Jeremiah in the readings for today is written in verse, and it benefits from the same re-envisioning:
LOVE, you enticed me, and I was taken in.
You were too strong for me, and you prevailed.
Now I’m laughed at all the time;
everyone mocks me.
Every time I open my mouth, I cry out
and say, “Violence and destruction!”
LOVE’s word has brought me
nothing but insult and injury, constantly.
I thought, I’ll forget him;
I’ll no longer speak in his name.
But there’s an intense fire in my heart,
trapped in my bones.
I’m drained trying to contain it;
I’m unable to do it.
–Jeremiah 20:7-9, (Common English Bible, with substitution)
I’ve often struggled to identify with the prophets. Even if you know Jeremiah is right, he can come off like a scold. If the Lord God is so angry, they can say so themselves. Carrying on about the boss’s warnings casts the prophet as an obnoxious middle manager.
This personal moment from Jeremiah reads as something very tender, though. The God of Love has seduced him, and his angry words come from love—love for God and God’s love for their people. The feelings are raw and real.
Moreover, love can sometimes look like violence and destruction. In an unjust society like ours, we shouldn’t be surprised when loving the oppressed means destroying oppressive institutions, families, and edifices. Jesus comes with a sword, after all.
However, this destruction isn’t in service of a bigger, better autocrat, much as we’re numbed by religious metaphors to that effect. Christian nationalists miss the point entirely. We’re called by love, act through love, and, if we’re being faithful, can’t help but love.
Links to the appointed readings and prayer for today: