My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:12-13)
I went to see “Beauty and the Beast” the other evening with my wife and daughter. It has always been one of Jess’s favorite Disney stories. When she was young, we watched the 1991 animated version with Paige O’Hara and Robby Benson as the voices of the two lead roles … and watched it more times than I care to admit. The new edition is different, but the same. It has actors instead of animation along with some new songs and a few re-interpretations of the original scenes. But the core story is still the same. Two people who detest each other for different reasons are brought together through a hostile encounter. And then in time, the same two people who in facing a different set of circumstances, gradually come to love each other.
It is a story that is much older, of course … 277 years older to be exact … and crafted by the French author Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, whose fall from aristocratic grace necessitated her getting a real job, and led her to a famous French playwright with whom she lived and from whom she learned. But its years of relevance grow from the core theme that love grows best not from physical attraction, but shared experience, acts of sacrifice, and the overcoming of adversity in life. It is a breath of fresh air in the face of our silly obsessions with shows like Say Yes to the Dress, Bridezillas, and Bridalplasty.
So in your prayer and reflection this week, think for a few moments about the intimate or covenantal relationships that are part of your life. From what fount does their lifeblood flow? What are the characteristics that keep those covenants intact and thriving? Do you find your covenantal love a bit counter cultural? Can you see God at the heart of your covenant? Could you manage these relationships in a healthy manner without God?