Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

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.

How Are We Known?

January 13, 2021

Jesus said that not everyone who calls him Lord will be saved.

Jesus also said that we will be known as his followers by how we love one another. He also said the greatest commandment was love—for God and for our neighbor. He illustrated the definition of neighbor with a story where the hero was someone of a hated race.

As we sit in our evening reflection upon that which we have done with our day—the Ignatian daily Examen—-how do we honestly and humbly evaluate ourselves? We have perhaps said or implied that we are Christian. Have we actually acted—in speech or deed—like a person whom Jesus would welcome as a follower?

Once upon a time, our words and deeds were exposed only to those few around us who thought and acted like us. Now, we post on social media and as these words and photos get “liked” and “shared” we are exposed to perhaps a very large audience. And there we are—no longer hidden to where only a few people close to us know our darkest thoughts. Or deeds.

Not everyone who calls Jesus Lord…

Makes me reflect on my daily shortcomings. And no excuses for moving to a new community where I am almost completely unknown and where there is a pandemic keeping us isolated (or should). Where did I fall short in word or deed?

What If

January 23, 2020

That is such a powerful phrase.

What if…causes you to shift the analogies you think in. To consider new possibilities. New ways of seeing situations and challenges.

Consider a thought from one of my favorite philosopher/theologians–Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (tay-yard de shar-dan):

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.

What if we really followed Jesus, who turned the world upside down by pursuing love, not power?

We Are All Interconnected

November 27, 2018

Once in meditation, I was brought to a room. Then suddenly appeared all different peoples. People of different races, cultures, genders. And I was given the realization that we are all connected. And we are all in this thing called life together.

The Roman emperor/philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote a reminder to himself, “Meditate often on the interconnectedness and mutual interdependence of all things in the universe.” 

Travel brings wonderful things into consciousness if we but open our eyes. We get out of our tribe. We see that other people have the same joys and struggles. Within our tribes it is easy to impugn the motives of others. When we realize how interconnected and alike we all are, we are convicted of our own motives.

[Note: If you notice posts this week are a little early, it is because I am in Germany.]

We are placed here to help others and do good. I must remind the technologists to whom I write professionally that the purpose of developing and implementing technology is to help people. To be more like Scott Harrison who founded Charity Water using technology to bring safe drinking water to millions. (Link is to his new book.) Not to be like Mark Zuckerberg who uses and manipulates us in order to become a billionaire.

Jesus told us God is Love and that we should channel that love to all of our neighbors. Meditate often on how all of God’s creation is interconnected and interdependent.

It’s Not Everyone Who Calls Me Lord

April 10, 2018

What if Jesus meant what he said?

I truly appreciate that group of teachers who began pondering that question some 45 years ago or so. It is much to our loss that their voices have been drowned by the hype of others.

What if Jesus really meant what Matthew recorded (7:21):

Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Jesus also said (as reported by his good friend John):

I give you a new command, Love one another as I have loved you.

What if we lived today not simply repeating opinions of theology or calling the name of Jesus with empty hearts, but…

that we lived today doing the will of the Father.

Maybe like James teaches, we watch what we say lest we hurt someone rather than building them up.

Hint: perhaps we step back and look objectively at the tone of our opinions and social media posts–remember that the right to free speech does not absolve us from the responsibility of speaking in love.

Maybe like the apostle Paul teaches, such as the list he gives us (1 Corinthians 13) describing how to act with love.

Maybe Jesus really meant that we are supposed to do the will of the Father, not just call out his name.

Do Not Over Think

March 12, 2018

“Do not overthink. Call the simple fouls.” Advice to soccer referees preparing for the new season.

OK, this is odd advice coming from the guy whose basic life orientation is to think and analyze. But maybe it’s why I have liked the challenge of refereeing soccer for the past 30 years. When you focus on each challenge in a match, you don’t have time to think too much. It’s feel for the flow of the game, the reactions of the players, and what serves justice.

Do not overthink.

My morning reading in Romans. “The commandments…are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”

When Jesus gave this command the Pharisees, those overachievers in thinking too much, started questioning. “Who is our neighbor?” Jesus responded with a story whose hero was member of a despised race of people–sort of like an illegal immigrant. In other words, everyone is our neighbor–even those we despise personally.

Love does no wrong to a neighbor.

Consider this when deciding what to do with your money.

Consider this with every person you come into contact with.

Consider this with your politics.

Consider this within your church and groups.

How do I live each moment as if Jesus and Paul actually meant for me to live this way? In the flow of the moment; without overthinking it?

By This Everyone Will Know

September 25, 2017

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.

Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

We had a few days of vacation last week. Well, my wife had a week. I had four days. I took some time each day meditating. On that saying of Jesus recorded by John in his Gospel—twice. 

Repeating something means it’s important. Something like when your mom called you and used your entire given name. Not that I ever heard, “Gary Alan Mintchell! Get in here right this minute.” Well, maybe I did. And I knew the emphasis.

Look this up in John 13 and again in John 15.

Jesus gives us a commandment—Love one another.

He gives us an example—Just as I have loved you. (John places this teaching immediately following the experience of Jesus washing their feet just as a servant would do.)

He gives us an outcome—By this everyone will know…

It’s simple. 

It’s direct.

There is no room for theology, argument, dispute, equivocation.

It is also so hard to do.

But, wow, if you are ever blessed to be in such a group, it is life changing.

Real Christians…

September 18, 2017

In the southern Bible Belt of the US, the most outspoken theme of Christian messaging is conversion. That is, “accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior.”

As we travel south on vacation, we are always greeted by a parade of two types of billboards. One tempts you into visiting an “adult” store or stripper club. I’ve never visited an “adult” store, but I imagine it is, well, for adults. The other series of billboards attempts to provoke a conversion–whether by guilt or fear (usually fear).

This billboard in Virginia was different.

“Real Christians…Love Their Enemies”

Well, that is what Jesus instructed, right?

He said that anyone can love their friends. Even the pagans. But as for his followers, they should take this love thing to a new level.

So, what about this love thing?

Certainly not emotional. How about in action? Like when he followed up that discussion with examples such as “when someone asks you to carry his baggage for a mile, do it for two” or “when someone slaps you on the left cheek, turn the other”.

I’ve been injured by a few people in my life. Some years ago one of these people was talking with me. I listened politely and civilly, then went on my way. A friend asked, “Don’t you hate that guy?”  I replied, well, I don’t like what he did to me, but that’s no excuse not to be civil if I can’t otherwise avoid the conversation.

That’s probably on the weak side of love. But it beats the alternative–for both of us.

We are often too complicated. We overthink things. Why not just do the simple thing and move on?

And life goes on.

Mother’s Day Is Coming

May 11, 2017

Interesting that Jon Swanson wrote about Mother’s Day this morning.

I got into a conversation with an Israeli journalist yesterday in Las Vegas at the computer conference I attended. The subject of Mother’s Day came up. He was staying in the States for a second conference, so he would be here for the holiday. But he was confused about it. His English was not fluent. We could not translate “Hallmark Holiday” into terms he could comprehend.

According to a Wikipedia article, a certain Anna Jarvis began campaigning in 1905 for a day to be set aside as a national holiday in commemoration of her mother–a Civil War peace activist. Some states began recognizing it by 1908. President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation in 1911 setting Mother’s Day as the second Sunday in May.

But it didn’t take long….

Although Jarvis was successful in founding Mother’s Day, she became resentful of the commercialization of the holiday. By the early 1920s, Hallmark Cards and other companies had started selling Mother’s Day cards. Jarvis believed that the companies had misinterpreted and exploited the idea of Mother’s Day, and that the emphasis of the holiday was on sentiment, not profit. As a result, she organized boycotts of Mother’s Day, and threatened to issue lawsuits against the companies involved.

Gee, sounds like Christmas all over again. And Easter. And Father’s Day (well, maybe not so commercial, you can’t buy for men, you know). Did you know Sibling’s Day? Grandparent’s Day? Groundhog Day? Ooops, I think that one is different.

It is certainly hard to maintain your focus on meaning in the midst of hype.

My mother passed away quite a few years ago. I still remember the last time I saw her alive. But my wife reminds me that she is the mother of my children, so I should remember and honor her. And I will. For the 17th time in the past 22 years, I’ll be overseeing the referees at a soccer tournament. So, I’m out of her hair and she can do as she pleases.

But, maybe dinner later.

And to my many international readers–perhaps you don’t have a national holiday, but you could still take a day and do something special for your mother.