Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

You Don’t Own Me

September 6, 2022

Looking back on the 60s, I thought this was radical for the time–and for many even today in the 20s it is radical.

You don’t own me

I’m not just one of your many toys

You don’t own me

Don’t try to change me in any way

And don’t tell me what to do

And don’t tell me what to say

And please when I go out with you,

Don’t put me on display.

Written by John Medora, David White; Sung by Leslie Gore, 1963

Even in my nerdy teenage years, those words resonated.

And today even more so.

The non-technology part of my Twitter stream concerns women hurt by evangelical pastors and evangelical husbands. I’m sitting here not 15 miles from a guy who famously injured emotionally if not physically many women.

I know of many who hold to a theology ripped from part of the Apostle Paul’s writings to justify that behavior. They may make fun of how that disciple of the Enlightenment, Thomas Jefferson, famously cut phrases from the Bible that he couldn’t agree with (understand?), but this is the same in reverse. Let us just cut a few phrases out of Paul, paste them on our walls, and follow them.

Count the number of times Paul instructed mutual submission. Observe the way Jesus treated women. Follow Jesus’ command to love our neighbor (and no, not that way…).

The radio in my wife’s car is set to Sirius XM’s 60s Gold (for contrast, mine is on Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville). This Leslie Gore song pops up occasionally as a reminder of how to treat other people.

Try it.

Christ Abhors Vagueness

June 27, 2022

It is easy enough to write and talk about God while remaining comfortable within the contemporary intellectual climate. Even people who would call themselves unbelievers often use the word gesturally, as a ready-made synonym for mystery. But if nature abhors a vacuum, Christ abhors a vagueness. If God is love, Christ is love for this one person, this one place, this one time-bound and time-ravaged self.

Christian Wiman

I read this thought and loved a couple of things in it. It’s easy for anyone to use the term God. Christ abhors vagueness.

It reminds me of an old Peanuts cartoon where Linus proclaims, “I love mankind.” But then he adds, “I can’t stand people.”

We can see this in general society. We see it in evangelical churches. Probably other churches as well.

I hope we don’t see it within us.

Jesus taught us that love is specific. His stories told of specific people loving specific people. He healed specific individual people. He taught us to do the same.

When I leave this desk to go out into the community around me, can I show some act, however small, of love toward each person I meet?

That is the test.

The Test of Love

March 31, 2022

How are we assured that we have learned the material? We pass a test over the subject matter. How do we know that what we’ve built is what was ordered? We test it.

How do we know if we are following Jesus’ commands? Well, we test our actions against the golden measure—Jesus. He left us two tests for us to compare what we do with what he said.

When asked early in his ministry, he said to love our neighbor as ourselves. The test is loving ourselves. Unfortunately, many of us have trouble loving ourselves. Also that is somewhat limited. How much do we love ourselves?

At the end of his ministry, he left another, more stringent, test. He said to love one another as he has loved us. Sometimes our self love falters. But Jesus’ love. That is tough to duplicate. That makes it the gold standard. The ideal. We need to examine ourselves often. Where have we fallen short of loving just as Jesus loved? With that Facebook post? With that comment to a neighbor about another neighbor? With that failure to help someone in need?

If the test is whether we have loved just as Jesus has loved, then have we passed? Or have we failed? What do we need to learn today so that we pass when we check tonight?

Beware The Bits and Pieces

March 24, 2022

How does one live in the spirit holistically? How do we avoid taking one little part of the gospel and making it the whole thing?

The apostle Paul recognized the problem as he closed his letter to the Roman church. He was like the TV detective who is about to leave the room after questioning a suspect and turns back and says, “Oh, and one more thing.” This being the question that gets to the heart of the criminal mind.

Paul says, “One more word of counsel, friends. Keep a sharp eye out for those who take bits and pieces of the teaching that you learned and then use them to make trouble… They are only in this for what they can get out of it, and aren’t above using pious sweet talk to dupe unsuspecting innocents.”

I wish that many who have read this letter and taken life sentences from it would have read the letter all the way to the end.

We can only understand parts by relating them to the whole. And also to the first principles of Jesus’ teaching—change your life and love one another.

Discovering Fire

January 27, 2022

Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

One of my favorite philosophers, Teilhard (tay-yar) was a French Jesuit priest and a paleontologist. He was also an optimist. We need some optimism today. Everywhere around the globe negative news floods us. Negative, complaining people are everywhere.

A valid exercise for us at the beginning of the day and at the examen at the end of the day would be to inquire of ourselves, “What will I do (have I done) today that harnesses in at least some small way the energies of love for the honor of God?”

How You Treat The Poor

November 16, 2021

Prayer or Words? The guarantee of one’s prayer is not in saying a lot of words. The guarantee of one’s petition is very easy to know: How do I treat the poor? The degree to which you approach them, and the love with which you approach them, or the scorn with which you approach them – that is how you approach your God. What you do to them, you do to God. The way you look at them is the way you look at God.

Oscar Romero

Jesus told a couple of stories.

Once two men went to the central religious meeting point, the place where you could get closest to God, the Temple in Jerusalem. They went because they wanted to be close to God. But there were other, hidden reasons.

One man was a visible member of the very religious club. He actually went to be seen praying. And he prayed on a visible corner with many (probably long) words. The other man went to a place not on the Main Street. He assumed a posture of humility asking God for forgiveness and support. This is the man Jesus said went away justified.

Jesus was tested by another member of the Religion Club. The question centered on the “second commandment” to love our neighbor. He needed an explanation about what love your neighbor meant.

Jesus responded with a story. We call the story The Good Samaritan. All good stories have many points. The man who followed the commandment was an outcast from Jewish society. The man also did not just pause on his journey to say a prayer. No, he stopped. Bandaged the wounds of the injured traveler. He took him to an inn and paid for a room and medical care.

Loving your neighbor is not words—it’s deeds.

Oscar Romero, venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, became one of my spiritual heroes by the early 80s. His teaching to us is actually more than doing. He also addresses attitude. How do you approach others who are different from you? Then what do you do for them?

These are challenging questions. I am challenged. As, I hope, are you wherever you are.

We Assume Wrongly

October 22, 2021

I believe something about someone or something without thinking it through. In other words, I assume something as true that quite probably is not.

There is a humorous parsing of the word assume — “it makes a ass out of u and me”.

The current British crime drama my wife dug up for us to watch the series straight through is set in and around Newcastle in north of England. Inspector George Gently wound up with a cocky young sergeant who has something negative to say about almost everyone. “Is there any human that you don’t have an opinion about?” Gently asks him after another flip dismissal of someone of a particular ethnicity.

I am guessing that the writers are drawing a caricature of a north England young man. TV often requires a couple of caricatures to play off the deeper, conflicting emotions of the lead actor.

But he also represents us all. I bet you don’t have to dive very deeply into memory before you recall the last time you made some flip remark about poor people, or black people, or white people, or homosexual people, or people from some other ethnicity.

Note my use of the word “people.” I try to remind myself of the humanity of all people. How we all struggle to live a good life. How we all struggle with our weaknesses. But we are all children of God, loved by the Father.

When we feel ourselves assuming, we would do well to remember the First Principles of the faith—we are to love God with all of our hearts, strength, soul, and mind; and we are to love our neighbor. And then banish those assumptions.

A Love Potion Without Drugs

October 15, 2021

The ancient Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote to his young friend that they believed that a wise person is self sufficient, yet knows the value of friends, neighbors, associates. He asks, how then does one get a new friend when the current one is lost? He quotes another philosopher, Hecato of Rhodes:

I can show you a love potion compounded without drugs, herbs, or any witch’s incantation: ‘If you would be loved, love.”

Isn’t life simple? Yet, for some of us, that simple prescription can be most difficult. We must go outside ourselves and recognize other people—their needs, desires, insecurities, qualities.

How often have we dismissed someone as aloof or arrogant only to talk with them and discover they are merely quiet and actually quite lovely people?

In reality, I’ve met many lovely human beings from many parts of the Earth and only a few real jerks. How about you, if you pause to consider?

Maybe try this by just going out and being nice to someone today. Drop the cynical facade and smile. That brightens everyone’s day.

Eschew Power

June 10, 2021

Again the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ “

Matthew 4

The Hebrew Scriptures, indeed all of ancient history, emphasize stories of power. By the first century, the Romans had perfected power as a cultural device. Everyone sought power over whatever domain they could control.

Unless you are Jesus. He turned the Roman view of the world upside down. It was not power he sought and taught. It was love. Not soft love. Not romantic love. Not erotic love. But a love through God extended to the neighbor out of strength and right attitude.

He turned the world upside down—until the church became part of the Roman Empire. And from the fourth century until today, leaders of the Christian church have faced that temptation of power and lost.

Our question for today’s living—at what point is there anything in my life that reflects what Jesus taught and how Jesus lived? Have I in my personal or political life succumbed to a quest for power? Am I instead living a life that reflects loving God and loving my neighbor?

One Individual At A Time

May 19, 2021

Imagine Jesus at a slope from the seashore to the mountain. There is one of those mega-church-sized crowds of 10,000 listening to him teach. And then he closes his eyes, face turned upward, arms raised and reaching out toward the crowd, as he works himself into an emotional frenzy, he shouts, “Yes, I see you with the arthritic hip. And you are cured. And you with the migraine headaches that won’t go away, yes, you are healed. Yes, I hear you who are suffering from depression. You are made whole…”

I was pondering the words of Linus, the philosopher/theologian of Charles Schulz’s Peanuts gang, who said, “I love humanity; it’s people I can’t stand.”

Jesus taught people in crowds. He healed individually. He dealt with unique individuals. People with severe skin diseases whom he actually touched (could you? I?). A woman with bleeding. A foreign woman with a sick child. A Roman (don’t overlook the significance of these last two) with a sick servant. People. He loved people. He told us to love people. Not crowds. People. Individuals.

What are we to learn?

Perhaps the next human we meet, we see as an individual. An individual with their unique hope and dreams and struggles and accomplishments. Not just classified into a faceless group–black, Asian, Mexican, rural white, and so on, and so on.

Like Jesus, we discard theory and just love the individual we meet next. And the one after. And the one after…