On a recent episode of the Glenn Beck television program, Glenn talked about two men whose pictures he has on his wall: Dietrich Bonheoffer and Mahatma Gandhi. From the first, he learned courage; from the second, he learned love. During the rest of the program, these two themes dominated, especially love.
I’ve watched his show regularly, and as such I believe I possess a reasonable grasp of the context of where Glenn is coming from and where he is going. I applaud his call for Americans to stop trying to fix America through elections, but for them to fix America by fixing their individual lives. I also agree that “faith,” “hope,” and “charity” are core values that must be reintegrated into our lives. I also agree with him that many of America’s problems are too big for any government or individual to fix—God’s divine intervention is needed.
During the episode in which he discussed Bonheoffer and Gandhi, my reaction was mixed. On the one hand I agreed that courage and love are necessary ingredients to ensure a successful nation and foster individual responsibility. On the other hand, I was saddened that he cited Gandhi as the one who taught him about love. While the famous guru does teach about love, there is one person who is a better teacher and practitioner of love.
As I listened further, I tried to keep two things in mind. First, Glenn Beck does not seek to use his show for an evangelistic platform—it’s a political and current events commentary program, not televangelism. Thus, Beck is not trying to convince people to follow any particular religious doctrine, though he does imply that one must acknowledge the existence of God. But because of the nature of the program—political commentary—his goal is to help Americans recapture to certain principles that he believes have been lost: faith, hope, and charity.
The second thing I tried to keep in mind while watching was that Beck likely chose an individual that many people of various faiths respect. Maybe he didn’t want to be any more polarizing that he already is, and thus chose someone many people admire already. Additionally, he never claimed that Gandhi was the best or only person from whom one can learn about love.
With these factors considered, I continued to watch, still wondering why the man who boldly expresses his faith never once mentioned the ideal teacher, the perfect practitioner of love. Maybe this person is too polarizing? Maybe he’s too controversial? Maybe Glenn couldn’t find an actual picture that he could put on his desk or blow up? Only Beck knows the answers. But having watched many programs, I do not believe that Glenn would assert that Gandhi is the best teacher of love, superior to all others.
But if not Gandhi, who is the one who practiced perfect love? Who is the ideal teacher of love? Who exceeds the famous monk from whom can we learn about love? Before I answer, let me say that I doubt Beck would disagree with my answer, though there are things he and I probably do disagree on when it comes to theological matters. (Glenn, I’d love to have a pleasant, casual conversation with you over these things—it would be a joy.)
So, who is the ideal source? That perfect teacher is none other than the Son of God, Jesus.
Unlike Gandhi, who was a mere man, Jesus is God incarnate. He is God the Son. Jesus is Messiah, the promised one, the one through whom all creation was made. He is the one who looked over mankind and wept for them. Jesus is the one who said that he came to give life eternal. Jesus is the one who, having done no wrong, having committed no sin, willingly let himself be brutally beaten and condemned to death.
Jesus is the one who allowed the soldiers to hammer nails through his hands and feet, all the while asking the Father to forgive them. Jesus is the one who, early on Sunday morning, arose from the grave. Jesus is the one.
Why did Jesus do all this? Love. He did this for love. No man has greater love than this: that he lay down his life for his friends. But Jesus is more than a man, he is also God. Jesus—God the Son—laid down his life for his enemies as well. Someone might willingly lay down his life for a good person or his friends, but Jesus laid down his life for his enemies.
Who are his enemies? They are people who are trapped, lost in sin. They are you and me without salvation. Jesus’ death on the cross paid for the sin of every single person who puts their faith in him.
What does that mean? We are all sinners; we all are guilty of doing wrong against God. The punishment for sin is death. But God, being full of grace and love, sent his son to pay a price no man could pay. Jesus took sin upon himself and paid the death penalty we all deserve. Because of this, every person who believes in Jesus, everyone who puts their faith in him alone for salvation, everyone who believes in their heart that Jesus rose from the dead, and confesses with their mouth that Jesus is Lord shall be saved.
Now that is love!