I have ridden the good lyrics to Good Lord train for years. I suppose it grows out of an intuitive sense (redundant coupling, I know) of how God uses many means and messengers to keep his redemptive themes in front of us. Music seems to be one of his favorites. For the past day or two, I’ve been traveling Tampa Bay to Leonard Cohen’s live concerts from London and Toronto. I was a latecomer to his music beyond The Broken Hallelujah, but have become a keen listener to his beyond human deep voice, and often even deeper thoughts and stories.
Cohen was raised an Orthodox Jew in Toronto and held steadfast to his faithful heritage. He employs lines and images from the Hebrew Bible like a country writer carefully drops cliches. Later in life, he studied Buddhism, claiming it posed no conflict with his Hebrew faith absent a deity to have before Yahweh or a call to corporate worship. (He once joked of spending many years delving into the great philosophies and religions of the world, but cheerfulness kept breaking through.) Interestingly, there is a lot of Jesus in there too. I mean a lot.
Cohen showed an interest in Jesus as a universal figure, saying:
I’m very fond of Jesus Christ. He may be the most beautiful guy who walked the face of this earth. Any guy who says ‘Blessed are the poor. Blessed are the meek’ has got to be a figure of unparalleled generosity and insight and madness … A man who declared himself to stand among the thieves, the prostitutes and the homeless. His position cannot be comprehended. It is an inhuman generosity. A generosity that would overthrow the world if it was embraced because nothing would weather that compassion. I’m not trying to alter the Jewish view of Jesus Christ. But to me, in spite of what I know about the history of legal Christianity, the figure of the man has touched me.
Listen to what Cohen says about the Stranger of Galilee. Who does he stand with? Who are the blessed? What about this “Unparalleled generosity and insight and madness.” Yes, the ways of Jesus indeed sound like madness to a world gone insane. They always have. But what if they were embraced, starting with his kind of people and spreading out from there? Could all hate, selfishness, pettiness and all other ungodliness weather such love? He thinks not. Neither do I. Neither does Jesus. But in the absence of that radical, generous grace, they will naturally flourish.
Jesus said, “This is my commandment that you love as I have loved you.” Paul said, “Love conquers all.” John said that love is from God because, after all, “God is love.” And the deep bass rabbi from above the border sang “There ain’t no cure, there ain’t no cure, there ain’t no cure for love.” This inhuman generosity, born of divine love really is the cure for all things. better still, there is no cure for it. Whether it’s heard from Jesus, Paul, John or Leonard Cohen, we can believe it. Better still, we can live it. If we do, Lord only knows what could be cured.