Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

Love Ought To Manifest Itself In Deeds

March 13, 2017

“Love ought to manifest itself more by deeds than by words.” St. Ignatius Loyola

Ever heard the phrase “paying lip service”?

Some people talk well. But their actions, well, their actions leave much to be desired.

There was a character in the old Leave It To Beaver TV show called Eddie Haskell. He was a teenaged friend of Beaver’s older brother, Wally. When he saw the parents, he was always obsequious and complimentary. But when it was just kids, then he was an altogether different person.

Who do you know that is like that?

There was a guy who worked for me once. I hired him. Worst mistake I ever made in business. It shook my confidence in my ability to pick good teams. Our team at Automation World restored my confidence. We put out the best magazine in the industry for eight years. But this guy, he was a piece of work. He’d as soon stab you in the back as look at you. But to your face–Mr. Nice Guy.

I could see the long term and knew the company was doomed. So I didn’t fight anything. It was time to get out before the company closed. He got my job–but only for a few months before it was all over and they shut down. Meanwhile, I was off to a better place that really built my career.

What you do speaks so loudly that one cannot hear what you say. What you do had best be love.

Feelings are not always trustworthy. Words do not always mean what they say. But actions. Let your love be manifest in how you act and what you do.

Let’s Pick The Scripture / Teaching We Want

February 20, 2017

It’s like a buffet. You get in the queue. All the dishes are laid out in front of you. Looking through the sneeze guard, you pick the things you want.

A guy I knew who was firmly and proudly in the Religious Right preferred to black out inconvenient teaching in the text. And often blacked out the context, too.

I’m teaching a class focusing on one of Paul’s letters. “I never liked Paul. He said such mean things about women.”

It is so inconvenient. Reading thoroughly for meaning within context, that is. It is so easy to pick out the things I agree with and ignore the rest. 

And when we do that, we hurt people. Deeply.

I even know of people who have deeply held “religious” and “Christian” views that aren’t even in the Bible. Or even in any reputable Christian writing from the early Church fathers to Dallas Willard and Henri Nouwen.

And they deeply hurt people. And drive them away from the church.

Can I ask an existential question? What happens to both people when a self-proclaimed Christian person separates another person from God? Are there any winners? Are there any losers? Who?

I have only one faith–that God raised Jesus from death to life.

And two commandments that I follow quite poorly (geek that I am), namely Love God thoroughly and Love other people as myself.

So there are two responses, peace and justice.

And where lie peace and justice in a world where we draw lines based on buffet-line-style religion? And a world where self-centeredness rules?

How about instead of a buffet line reading of the Scripture we try a wine tasting way? We try some and learn to savor the different flavors and aromas. Discerning the nuances of each grape and fermentation process. And then try some more.

Spiritual writing is to be savored with discernment, not picked over and swallowed without tasting.

Happy Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2017

Today we celebrate love. But what of love do we celebrate?

It’s almost like a “Hallmark Holiday.” Buy a card and a box of chocolates (that neither one of you really need) and escape for a year?

That almost sounds like an inoculation theory of love. You know, get an injection of a little the disease and then you are immune from catching the full shot of the disease.

Many people get confused about love. They get all sentimental, mushy feelings, pastel colors.

I don’t think that is what Jesus had in mind when he said, by this you will know my followers, by their love.

Somehow, I never saw Jesus as sentimental. Tender at times? Yes.

Bet it took tough love to bring together a Trump-loving conservative and a guy who “felt the Bern” into his small group. OK, I’m taking a few liberties on the tax collector and the Zealot theme–but their animosity probably ran deeper.

At the gym the other day I looked up at the TV (hard to ignore flashing pictures). They were showing a rapid succession of happy, attractive people who had used some miracle product. I wondered, do we try to measure our lives by these artificial happy moments? Do we think, gosh, I wish my significant other made me feel that way.

Love is being present in mind as well as body. Watching for ways to help. Being kind mostly, but tough enough to bring them back when they stray.

The Only Thing That Counts

November 9, 2016

You know the type. We all know the type. Unless you are that type, then maybe you don’t recognize it at least in yourself.

One kid like this exists in every classroom. At least one kid. And in church… sometimes an entire church is filled with them. And in other organizations, as well. And in families.

That is the person who knows all the rules. And follows them. To the letter. Other kids in school hate that kid. Or, at least they don’t like them too much. These people love to point out to everyone else what the rules are. “You’re not supposed to do that.” Or “I’ll tell the teacher.” Or “You’ll roast in hell for doing that.”

The Apostle Paul started some fellowships of Jesus-followers in what today we call central Turkey. These were loving, joyous, giving  communities.

Then some strangers rode into town. They taught that these people needed to follow the law before they could be so joyous and loving. In fact, maybe it breaks the laws to actually be joyous and loving.

The particular law that those ancient teachers brought to the people in Galatia was the law of circumcision. They taught that first you had to earn the right to know God, and only then could they call themselves followers.

Paul told his friends that listening to that teaching would end their freedom in Jesus. He said that as soon as you follow one law, then you have to follow all the laws. Except he had already taught them that following all the laws in order to earn God’s favor was impossible. That’s why Jesus came–lived, died, and then lived again.

Paul said, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith made effective through love.”

Paul just taught what Jesus taught, “You’ll know my followers by their love.”

We need fewer “Church Ladies” and more followers. Can we ditch the rule following bias we have and just open ourselves up to finding the freedom to act in love? “Against such there is no law.”

 

Treating Other People Well

April 14, 2016

Jesus left us with clear teaching about how we are to live in society. Unambiguous. Straight forward. Challenging.

Try–and the second is like the first to love your neighbor as yourself. Whereupon he proceeded to give his listeners an expanded definition of neighbor.

Try–and they will know my followers by their love.

I just saw someone on Facebook (I slipped and actually read through my newsfeed this morning) ranting about discrimination laws.

I thought, why do we have such laws? Well, it must be because we as a society discriminate against other people or groups of people.

Why do we, in a Christian nation (as my friends like to say), discriminate against people or groups of people when the founder and author of our faith says to love our neighbor?

Will laws change our hearts?

Well, laws can change habits (maybe), and a habit repeated can change our heart. And Jesus was concerned with the heart.

But, Jesus’ main opponents, the Pharisees, tried that law path themselves. We’ll make them behave, they thought, by laying out a law governing every aspect of the peoples’ lives.

Hmmm. Didn’t work out for them, did it? Grace won.

So, why do we have laws about discrimination?

Sounds like a vicious circle. We don’t live out our life as Christ-followers, so some bright people say “we ought to pass a law”, and people resent being told to be nice. So we gotta pass another law.

Better to determine, where is our heart.

Maybe a bumper sticker, “Jesus is my cardiologist.” Nah. Bumper sticker theology is so lame.

Maybe I’ll just go out today and love my neighbor.

Lost In The Futility Of Their Minds

January 7, 2016

Have you ever met someone who is so smart that they are actually ignorant? They have so many ideas rattling around inside their skull that often nonsense comes out of their mouth (or computer)?

These people are not only atheist philosophers. I have met people who call themselves Christians who live entirely in their heads. Religion is intellectual, ideas, agreements with propositions.

Sometimes people study things to overcome their own deficiencies. Perhaps I’m that way. For a couple of years at the university, especially the year I wasted in graduate school studying political philosophy, my goal was to be an intellectual. University was all about ideas. In fact, some philosophers who were really all about spirit were labelled “idealists” meaning they thought ideas were real.

Now, I often observe that people think too much. They read too much into other people’s writings.

Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God. They have lost all sensitivity. (Ephesians 4:17-19 excerpted)

After the era of Freud, people seem to like to psychologically analyze other people. They think about others problems. Sometimes they explain away evil acts by saying it’s all their mother’s fault or some other such nonsense. (OK, I like Jung and James far more than Freud from that era, I’ll admit.)

We read the Bible and try to dissect every word as if we were scholars who had lived with the nuances of the language for a lifetime.

Jesus basically said it’s all about the status of our heart. It’s how we live out love. Paul emphasized grace. He also was concerned about how we live out love–but he was worried that people would return to being legalistic about it instead of living in the freedom of grace.

But freedom didn’t mean thinking about whatever you wanted to until you slowly went insane. Thinking that leads to understanding of God is good. Better is getting up every day and deciding to once again live out God’s grace by sharing it with others.

Stop sitting around thinking; start reaching out to others in love.

What Is Our Influence on People

December 16, 2015

Oh, sweetie, just put on a smile and you’ll get over it.

God will heal you if you believe hard enough.

Just stop sinning and then come to our church.

Sometimes I wonder whether in my social awkwardness whether I’ve said something as callous and stupid as one of those statements. Or maybe in a spiritually blind moment.

Have you ever heard someone approaching someone in need and just trampling all over their feeling seemingly oblivious to the person beneath the skin?

There are two reasons that people don’t come to know Jesus

  1. They don’t know any Christians.
  2. They do.

People need a guide and a mentor. They need someone who has battled the demons and come through on the other side. The 12-step people have something there.

There are people who think they have great knowledge and want to go around like Santa depositing gifts of advice on everyone.

Then there are people who really do have knowledge and wisdom, but they don’t realize it. They don’t know when they really could step in and help. These people need to be awakened. Then they could join the mentor group.

Lean Manufacturing, or Lean Thinking, teaches us that people are important. It also teaches to keep probing around a problem until we finally come to the “root cause”. Then, and only then, can we begin the process of finding a solution.

Same with people. If we don’t want to be either 1 or 2 above, then what we do is stop thinking advice and start thinking about the person. The problem probing technique is called “5 Whys.” If you keep asking Why, eventually you will come to the root of the problem.

When you are working with a hurting person, you don’t begin with advice. You ask them in a trustworthy way what is wrong, how they feel, why they think it happened, when did it start, who caused the problem. Rudyard Kipling’s six faithful serving men, who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Asking shows interest. It helps the other figure out things. Answer when asked, ask when they’re silent.

Be the type of Jesus-follower who shows concern and offers help–not the “Christian” who pompously showers advice upon unsuspecting victims.

The Status of Your Heart

November 25, 2015

John Ortberg, author and pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, has called Jesus the first cardiologist–“He is always interested in the state of your heart.”

We use metaphors of the heart often in our culture. In meditation we use breathing to calm the heart, slow the beating, bring order to the body. We talk about heartbreak. There are affairs of the heart.

Kevin Roberts, executive chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi a creative agency, recently wrote about the status of the heart in relation to the brain.

“We often think of the brain as the command center, responsible for how our whole body functions, but scientists now know that the heart in fact sends more signals to the brain than the brain does to the heart. The heart therefore affects how we think and function emotionally; conscious awareness comes from the brain and heart working together,” wrote Roberts.

We were taught in elementary biology that the brain does not really control the heart. Turns out the heart really is the center of our being.

Roberts says, “Perhaps this shouldn’t really come as a surprise. From everyday experience we know that when we are calm and the heart beats steadily, we are more able to think clearly. When we are in a stressful situation or panicking, our heart tends to race and our clarity of thought is hindered making it more difficult to think, remember or learn. So different emotional states send different signals to the brain and affect our cognitive functions.”

We really do need to check the status of our hearts. Not only from the view of keeping it calm. But also from the view of such things as empathy, gratitude, joy, love. Let’s inform our brain about the higher gifts.

Not For The Purpose of Quarreling Over Opinions

September 17, 2015

Yesterday I pondered what kind of church, indeed what kind of society, we’d have if we could incorporate Paul’s 29 definitions of love from Romans 12.

Then I glanced over a page and saw Romans 14: “Welcome those who are weak in the faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions.”

We live in a society of people filled to overflowing with emotional opinions that are shallow and not thought out. Just check the majority of Facebook posts. Or check the comments to blogs over the past 10 years.

Andy Stanley recently taught a series called “Christian” where he voiced general society’s view of Christians as a quarrelsome lot. He nailed it.

I long ago gave up on the idea of having an intelligent conversation based on well-thought-out ideas among people willing to listen to reason. Actually, I have had a few business dinners where that sort of good conversation broke out. But it rarely happens among Christians.

What if? What if those of us who identify as Christ-followers, those seeking to live a with-God life, what if we chose not to quarrel with those weak in the faith over opinions? What if we asked questions out of the depths of love? And then listened to their stories with the depths of love? And what if we could quietly share just what great things happen personally when we live a life with God?

John Lennon sang, “You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one.”

I’d love to see more than a few of us. How about you?

What Is Love

September 16, 2015

The word love is used often in the New Testament. John’s writing is filled with the word. Jesus said that he left two commandments–Love God and Love our neighbor. Jesus also said that people in general would know his followers by their love.

It makes me wonder–what is love.

We are taught that Greek has three words for love–eros, frater, agape. New Testament writers don’t refer to erotic love all that much. There are talks on agape–a selfless type of giving.

But Paul–that guy covers a lot of material while he tries to explain Jesus’ words to his new converts (and us old ones).

I’m wishing that more people would teach from the 12th chapter of Romans. Paul cites 29 synonyms for love in that chapter. 29!

If anyone thinks you should pull out Proverbs and read it once a year–and I do–then we need to put Romans 12 on our annual reading list. We should take a lot of time with it. Think about each word.

  • Let love be genuine
  • Hate what is evil; hold fast to what is good
  • love one another with mutual affection
  • outdo one another in showing honor
  • do not lag in zeal; be ardent in spirit; serve the Lord
  • rejoice in hope
  • be patient in suffering
  • persevere in prayer
  • contribute to the needs of the saints
  • extend hospitality to strangers
  • bless those who persecute you
  • rejoice with those who rejoice
  • weep with those who weep
  • live in harmony with one another
  • do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly
  • do not claim to be wiser than you are
  • do not repay anyone evil for evil
  • so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all
  • never avenge yourself
  • do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good

What a world it would be if Jesus-followers actually did what he taught! If only I could follow all those attitudes and actions!