Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

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…

He is a Liar

April 30, 2021

No, I’m talking about the politician on the other side. That may be true. Or not. And your guy may be, also. Or not.

I picked this up from the Apostle John. He is teaching what Jesus taught. Remember when Jesus was nearing the closing of his “sermon on the mount?”

John said, “Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar and the truth is not in that person.”

I can think of three times Jesus explicitly told his followers what to do:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind; and, your neighbor as yourself.

Love one another as I have loved you.

Go into all the world making disciples…

How many people do you know that say they know Jesus with their lips, yet the way they live and relate to people does not show love?

We should not point fingers. We should, if at all possible, exercise that love muscle and try to lead (teach) them into the right relationship. Sometimes just a word awakens those who are asleep.

Second question. Harder.

How often do I say I know Jesus, yet my actions disprove that and make me a liar?

I am heading back “home” to coordinate referees for perhaps my last soccer tournament after a 33-year career. I’ll be interacting with more than 200 people in a competitive situation. Ask me Monday how I did.

Try Not, Do or Do Not, There Is No Try

April 28, 2021

“Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.”

This is quoted to the best of my memory from Yoda in the original Star Wars trilogy. Note: I read once that there are two types of sci-fi movie people: Star Wars or Star Trek. I am the former.

This line of thinking began with someone telling a gathering that he was a Christ-follower.

So with no commentary about that person, I started thinking that if you must tell people you are a Christ-follower rather than that just being obvious by the way you talk and act, then perhaps something is amiss.

We should see in someone’s behavior what they are.

Then, in my imagination, I had a conversation with someone where I said, “I try to be a disciple of Jesus.”

That’s when I was condemned by Yoda. There is no try. Do or do not.

That is the question for me…and for you. What do we do?

I gave up fighting a long time ago as a youth when I saw the futility of it.

I gave up arguing a long time ago because I saw the futility. The last time I let someone push my button is burned into my memory from about 15 years ago.

I gave up protest marches 50 years ago because I thought they were futile.

I just make an effort to treat everyone as a person formed in the image of God. When I slip, I vow to not let it happen again.

Doing is a way of life–as in following the command of Jesus to love just as he loved.

Getting A Reboot

April 27, 2021

I am writing this on my older iPad Pro, because my new MacBook Air is getting a software update and is rebooting.

That sort of means going back to the source and starting over—only with new or updated software or operating instructions.

Sometimes I go in for a reboot, too.

I’m currently reading a book that made an impact on me 2-3 years ago. If you are curious (and I highly recommend the book), it is Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World by Andy Stanley. He is answering the question, what makes the American Christian church so resistible in our culture?

Reading the book of Proverbs from the Hebrew Scriptures every January is a form of reboot for me. As is going back to read Matthew chapters 5-7 from time to time.

You have to return to the source from time to time for refreshment.

Then you must venture forth to practice what you preach in the world.

There is a rhythm to life. We must find it for ourselves. A rhythm from silence and solitude to service and love—not love in the sense of so many American religious and political leaders, but love in the agape sense that Jesus, John, and Paul talked about. It’s a doing for others as Jesus did for us.

Find your rhythm. There is one for daily life. There is one for yearly life. It takes practice.

A Weakening of Charity

February 23, 2021

Those first century Corinthians must have been something else. Two letters that the Apostle Paul wrote to them are preserved in the Christian Bible. In one of the most famous passages in the entire Bible (chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians), Paul defines charity (love) for them. Evidently they didn’t have a clue.

Pope Benedict XVI in a series of talks on the Church Fathers talks of the third Bishop of Rome, Clement, writing to the Corinthians toward the end of the first century (maybe 30 years after Paul?), observes that if there were abuses in Corinth, the reason should be sought in the weakening of charity and other indispensible Christian virtues.

Someone must have thought, “Why did anyone ever stop in Corinth and start a church there? They’ve been nothing but trouble.”

If we look honestly at ourselves today, what would we observe?

Would the leaders who founded our congregation wonder why they bothered with such a divisive and stubborn people?

Would a church leader observe that problems within us are due to the weakening of charity?

Would we even consider that an indictment? I do know people whose attitude toward charity does not extend beyond themselves.

Many people observe Lent at this time of year by giving up something, making a sacrifice, turning their attitudes toward God and our need for grace. Maybe we could be in prayer and contemplation about whether we ourselves and our congregations are weakening in charity–and do something about it.

Thinking of Freedom

January 20, 2021

I was about 500 words into this post when I realized I was writing the introduction to a book I should have written in graduate school. Going from Jesus and Paul through Locke and Rousseau. Continuing on until today. So, I deleted the whole thing.

You’re welcome 😉

Jesus (and Paul and John and Peter and more) were as much concerned about freedom as many writers and activists today.

Jesus rightly pointed out that the Jewish religious leaders were trying to enslave the people to the Law–with themselves as the teachers, interpreters, judges of that Law. And how they found ways to circumvent the Law to their own benefit while piling it on to ordinary people. (Sounds pretty contemporary, doesn’t it?)

Jesus and his followers also devoted teaching to the problem of being enslaved by our passions, our unbridled emotions.

What was his solution? The Kingdom of God. Not a kingdom based upon fear of transgressing the Law. No, it would be a Kingdom based on God’s grace and our love–You shall love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself.

That kingdom would overturn every value of Rome’s kingdom of power and the Jewish kingdom of (the) Law.

We still struggle with those same forces. Some want to enforce all the old laws. Some seek political and economic power over others.

Some of us simply seek Jesus and his Kingdom of love where freedom from both Law and passion are found. And we can live with the fruit of the spirit–love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.