Tuesday, October 28, 2014

October 28, 2014 - Along the Way ...

Love is God's call for His people.   As people loved by God, we are called to love others.  I invite you to reflect with me for just a few minutes on Paul's words in Romans 12:9-21.

(Read Romans 12:9-21)

Clearly, love is active, and it requires a change of heart.  Earlier we talked about how we cannot love with words or tongue alone, but that love requires action and truth.   In much the same way it is not possible to love with actions alone, but love must come from the heart.

Paul says, "Love must be sincere."  (v. 9)

Since love comes from the heart, we cannot fake it.   I cannot simply give to my neighbor in need, I must also be willing to give myself, my friendship, my heart.  Those are the most difficult to give.  Yet if love is to be sincere, then I believe that is what it will require.

Paul also says, "Honor one another above yourselves."  (v. 10)

In order to honor another above myself, I must have my heart changed.   My first inclination in every situation is to honor myself, love myself, make sure I have what I need or want.  Yet, sincere love doesn't work that way.  Sincere love honors others, even above ourselves.

One of the ways you can see honor being given to others above ourselves, is when we rejoice with those who rejoice!   Jealousy is one of the biggest challenges to sincere love.   If I can be happy because you are happy, or if I can be joyful because you have succeeded even beyond me, then I know that my love is sincere.  It is not easy, but it is what real love requires.

Finally, Paul says, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."  (v. 18)

Peacemaking is love put in action.  Living at peace requires sincere love, honoring others above yourself, rejoicing with those who rejoice, etc.   Peace is the fruit of sincere love put into action.

Notice, however, that Paul states, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you ..."  Some people will not live at peace with us.  That is the reality of living in a broken world.   Nevertheless, Paul is saying make sure it is not you that is refusing to live at peace, rather he says, "as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

Love is our call as God's people, His dearly loved children, so let us make every effort to love others sincerely and from the heart, as we journey together along the Way ...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October 21, 2014 - Along the Way ...

Loving my neighbor is very difficult.  It begins with having the right heart, knowing how to answer "Who is my neighbor?"  It continues with understanding that love must be put into action according to truth.  But how do we decided when and how to love our neighbor well?

This question is related to the complexities of life.  I do not have access to all the necessary information, yet I am called to love well anyway.   Therefore we must learn to discern, and good discernment requires relationship.  I cannot love well, unless I first know my neighbor.

In learning to discern, we must first remember that our greatest need is relationship.   We need each other.  I need my neighbor as much as she needs me.   Without a good relationship, it is difficult to make the best care choices.  So we must be content with establishing relationship before any material goods can be exchanged.

And this is true for all situations.

One of the reasons (and there are many) I do not give to the homeless person standing on the freeway with a sign is because I do not know him.  In order to really care for him, I need to know him.  And whether he knows it or not, in order for him to receive from me, he needs to know me too.

Unfortunately I do not take the time to get to know him, and one of the reasons is because the street corner near a busy freeway is a less than ideal place to establish a relationship.   It would be better done in a coffee shop, or a local restaurant over a meal.  But when you do not know someone, it is difficult to even take that first step.

So what should we do?

Ultimately, I cannot meet every one of my neighbor's needs, especially for all those who are called my neighbor.  Therefore, my responsibility is to first get to know my neighbor; those God has placed around me.  In relationship, I fulfill her greatest need and she meets mine.   Over time the relationship can grow to include meeting other needs, but it must always begin with a relationship.

Derek Webb wrote a song called "Rich Young Ruler" where he states the following,

poverty is so hard to see
when it's only on your tv and twenty miles across town
where we're all living so good
that we moved out of Jesus' neighborhood
where he's hungry and not feeling so good
from going through our trash
he says, more than just your cash and coin
i want your time, i want your voice
i want the things you just can't give me (http://www.lyricsmania.com/rich_young_ruler_lyrics_derek_webb.html)

"More than just your cash and coin, I want your time, I want your voice,
I want the things you just can't give me."

Offering ourselves to another is the greatest gift we can give, and receiving others as gifts in and of themselves is the greatest gift we can receive.   We were not made to live alone, we were made for God and we were made for each other.  

So what do you think?  Do you agree or disagree?  I invite you to share your thoughts as well as we journey together along the Way ...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

October 14, 2014 - Along the Way ...

Last week, I considered the question, "Who is my neighbor?" as I began to consider what it might mean to really love my neighbor.  This week, I would like to examine the question, "What does love look like?"

(Read I John 3:11-24)

John makes clear that love for one another is obedience to God, and it has always been that way.

"This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another." (11)

He cites Cain's refusal to love his brother Abel as an example of disobedience to the command and then calls us to not be like Cain.  He also states that the evidence that we have passed from death to life (see also John 5:24) is that we love our brothers (read "others").   So clearly loving others is not an option for those who seek to follow after Jesus, but what does love look like?

John helps us understand what love looks like by referencing Jesus' sacrificial death and encouraging us to sacrifice for the good of others. 

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.
And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him,
how can the love of God be in him?
Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth." (16-18)

What would it mean to love "with actions and in truth"? 

This past weekend I was privileged to listen to a seminar on finding a Biblical perspective for the immigration debate.  The speaker said that in order for us to address this debate Biblically, we must begin with the more foundational reality - the immigrant's humanity; i.e. each person is made in the image of God.

I think starting with the image of God in all humans is critical in the immigration debate, but I also believe it can offer us a better way forward in loving our neighbor.  If each person I encounter on a daily basis is my neighbor, shares my humanity, and is created in God's image, then God's command to love "with actions and in truth" is binding.  I must care for the needs of the other, and seek to understand their needs in order to meet them, even as I seek to understand and meet my own needs.  

Loving "with actions and in truth" will lead us to do something for those we encounter, when their need is apparent.  Indeed we must do something!  However, doing something does not mean doing everything.   Sometimes to love "in truth" will require us to offer relationship without meeting other needs because the person created in God's image may need to learn to care for themselves.

Deciding how to help actively and truthfully, requires great discernment and a close relationship to God Himself.  Only God is able to meet our greatest need, so we must be careful not to overstep our role as "brother" or "sister" into trying to be a savior.   Again, knowing the best response for a particular situation will require great discernment, but I think the best place to begin is relationship.

In relationship, I offer myself to another and honor them by creating space in my life for them.   Healthy relationships begin with real friendship, and enable us to see that the best gift we can give and receive is ourselves.

So how can you show love by creating space for another in your life this week?  I invite you to share your ideas and other comments, as we journey together along the way ... 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

October 7, 2014 - Along the way ...

This past Sunday I committed myself to be more intentional about "loving my neighbor", but what exactly does that mean?

In order to answer that question, I must begin with the question, "Who is my neighbor?"

This famous question was asked Jesus to which He responded with a parable.  (See Luke 10:25-37)  Yet the parable is only half the story.  The interaction begins with the man's question, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"   Jesus answers by asking him, "What is written in the law?"  To which the man replies, "Love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself."   Jesus answers, "You have answered correctly ... Do this and you will live."   Then because the man wanted to justify himself he responds, "Who is my neighbor?"

The answer to the question, "Who is my neighbor?" is a tricky one.   In essence, every person ever created, but especially those in close proximity to me at any time, is my neighbor.   So in order to love my neighbor well, I need to see people (all people) as God sees them, and I need to love them as He loves them as an expression of my deep love for God Himself.

So, "Who is my neighbor?"

Most often we read the parable of the Good Samaritan, and we see that our concern should be for others, to love them in their time of need, and take care of them.   I agree.  That is certainly part of what Jesus is teaching.   However, Jesus goes deeper.  He requires that love must be not only outward but inward as well.  It is possible to show compassion to another without actually loving them.  

Consider the man's response when Jesus asks him, "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"  He replies, "The one who had mercy on him."   Notice what he does not say.   He does not say, "the Samaritan" rather he says, "The one ..."   This man hates Samaritans so much that it would be near impossible for him to acknowledge virtue in any one of them.  He may learn to love outwardly (by showing mercy), but he fails to love inwardly (by acknowledging the personhood of the people he hates in his heart).

So the question, "Who is my neighbor?" is where our conversation must begin.   What about you?  Do you have any thoughts?   I would love to hear what you have to say, as we journey together along the way ...