Lent (Days 14 + 15): Love is Confrontational

What captivates you about this image?

What is it about this image that challenges you?

This is a graffiti piece created by the artist Banksy, which you may already be familiar with or recently found out about him through the Oscar nominated documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop. Many of his works have very thought provoking scenes that usually serve as social critique of commercialization and political systems. This is one of my favorite pieces by him for many reasons. One reason it that I love how this image turns my expectation on its head. As I study the posture, the body language, it is one of abrupt action and disruption. And yet in the man’s hand is an offering that is both beautiful and lovely. Can these two realities exist together? Disruption and beauty. Chaos and love. Will I keep on compartmentalizing them or will I be able to hold these two realities together and see them as an option? This is an image that reminds me that love can be a confrontation. It can disarm and be somewhat abrasive. Love does not necessarily equal being nice. At some points, it is not nice at all.

And yet this is a humble act.

The person in this image is carrying flowers, and the flowers are a gift. Flowers attract many of our senses, they are visually beautiful and colorful, their aroma is intoxicating and there textures can be soft to the touch. Flowers can change an environment, they can help us encounter our worlds from a different perspective. They are given in hopes that they will transform relationships and our shared environments. This is an image that reminds me of God and my most meaningful relationships with other people. The people who have loved me the most, who have given of themselves and been the most humble, have been the people who got in my face and challenged me. They disrupted my sense of comfort and routine, they exploded the myths I was living by, they exposed me of my sin. And yet at the same time they offered grace and acceptance. Essentially they helped transform my environment and let me see things from an alternate lens.

And God does this so well himself, and we can see it in scripture when we are really honest with it and not trying to glean little lessons from it but see it as a collection of real, gritty stories of people who walked with God like we do now. Doubting, frustrated, complaining and seeking. God sought those people out and shook them, he awoke them from their slumber. And he allowed them to enter into very confusing and chaotic times, much as he still does now. He placed them in situations in which they had no idea how to cope or handle themselves, much as he does now. And yet they followed, they searched and wandered and kept going because deep within themselves they knew a truth that we still know now if only we would be free enough to trust it: that true love is humble and yet confrontational, disruptive and yet beautiful, chaotic and yet graceful.

Lord, help us to trust you even in the moments where you seem like an enemy. Give us the vision to see that love is humbly confrontational. Help us to love others like you have loved us.

Amen.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Lent (Days 14 + 15): Love is Confrontational

  1. Alex Jensen

    I just keep wondering why his mouth is covered. It makes me think of a western vigilante. Almost like if he gets caught showing such chaotic love he will be persecuted. I lost it during “exit through the gift shop” when the first edit of the documentary was given to banksy for review, haha. Anyway, maybe there is also the undertone that it is our choices and actions that truly define us, and not our words. That we should show our revolutionary love in real tangible ways. How much do you think Banksy meditates on his work? Has he become so prevalent because he actually has something to say, unlike most street artists?

    Keep writing Daniel.

  2. Thanks Alex. I’m not sure how reflective Banksy is in how he chooses his art but it certainly is powerful and challenges our assumptions. I think the hard thing for us is to realize our own complicity with these assumptions, it is quite easy to think that it is done by others but not ourselves. I like that Banksy seems to want to confront us a bit too.

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